National Open Athletics C'ships: Young spearmen ready to follow in Neeraj's footsteps

Twenty-year-old Sahil Silwal could be the future of Indian javelin throw, the best of the rest behind Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra.

Sahil Silwal is India's third-best javelin thrower this year, behind Neeraj and Shivpal Singh. - STAN RAYAN

He is lean and tall and has a sort of lost look about him. But Sahil Silwal could be the future of Indian javelin throw, the best of the rest behind Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra.

The 20-year-old from Haryana was fourth in the 2018 Under-20 Worlds in Finland with 72.83m but now has made better progress than all the medallists there.

While Australian Nash Lowis, the gold medallist in Finland, has come down heavily from the 80.10m high that came in June 2019 and is now in the 71m range, Sahil uncorked his personal best 80.65 in Patiala in March. That makes him India's third-best thrower this year, behind Neeraj and Shivpal Singh.

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“Neeraj has motivated us with his gold. I train with him, he is a good friend too and when somebody like him wins medals, it lifts us all,” said Sahil in a chat with Sportstar during the season-ending National Open where he won with a modest 77.79m. With the national camp having taken a break, he was not at his best.

“The sidewinds and headwinds at Warangal affected the throwers,” said Kashinath Naik, the 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and a former assistant national javelin coach who had worked with Neeraj, Shivpal and Annu Rani earlier.

“Youngsters like Sahil, D. P. Manu and Rohit Yadav are the best three after Neeraj and they are all in the 20-21 age group. Kunwer Ajai Raj, fifth in the recent Nairobi Under-20 Worlds, is also good.

“Sahil has good height too, he may come good in the next Asian Games and he can be groomed for the 2024 Paris Olympics.”

'Extraordinary talent'

But it will be unfair to compare the youngsters with Neeraj.

“Neeraj is an extraordinary talent. And the main thing is, Neeraj in training and Neeraj in competition are very different. He is very aggressive and enthusiastic during competitions, he does not fear anything,” said Kashinath.

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“He had a very good foreign coach (late Gary Calvert) early in life and gained much experience competing in Poland, Belgium and Germany before the big 86m throw that brought him the Under-20 Worlds gold with a world record.

“Some of these young boys have a bit of fear but once they get more international exposure, they will be strong and consistent.”

The people who have shaped Neeraj are working with Sahil too. He trains under Jaiveer Chaudhary, the Olympic champion's early coach. And biomechanics expert Klaus Bartonietz, Neeraj's current coach, charts out Sahil's training plan with Jaiveer.

“I've been with Jaiveer for a year, am comfortable with his technique and plan,” said Sahil who went to Finland and South Africa with Neeraj earlier and is likely to join the Army soon.

“I want to do big throws at the Asian Games, I want to win medals for the country. But right now, because I'm very tall (6'3), I need to put on some more weight to get stronger.”

Once the chinks are removed and the package is complete, Sahil, son of a businessman, could be throwing winning javelins.

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