The Davinder surprise!

Davinder Singh emerges from Neeraj Chopra’s shadow, makes history.

Davinder Singh registered a throw of 84.22 metres to qualify for the final.   -  AP

Davinder Singh has been living in Neeraj Chopra’s shadow the last couple of years. Davinder is a quality javelin thrower; he was a bronze medallist at the recent Asians and has a personal best of 84.57m but still, not many take him seriously.

And his positive dope test for marijuana just before the Bhubaneswar Asians only complicated matters. Though the Punjab thrower did not suffer a provisional suspension as marijuana is a specified substance under the WADA code, it made Davinder’s life difficult and made many wonder whether his performances were genuine.

Since Indian athletics had Neeraj Chopra, the Under-20 World champion and junior World record holder to toast and celebrate, Davinder was just seen as a sort of sparring partner for the junior world star.

So, when the 28-year-old went for that final throw in the qualification round, with a sore shoulder, at the World Championships in London on Thursday night, he must have been under a great deal of pressure. Pressure to prove himself but certainly not the weight of expectations of his countrymen. That burden went to the 19-year-old Neeraj, the Asian champion and the young man whom many expected to finish among the top six.

Nothing to lose

With Neeraj failing to qualify for the final, Davinder must have realised that he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. And he grabbed the golden opportunity with both hands and produced a big surprise, the 84.22m which helped him get past the automatic qualification mark of 83m comfortably.

With that Davinder achieved a major landmark, becoming the first Indian javelin thrower to progress to the final at the Worlds, and also the first to make the final in London. Though the qualification round results may not mean anything in the final, the 28-year-old Indian will certainly be happy to note that he finished higher than Germany’s Olympic champion Thomas Rohler.

But what went wrong with Neeraj, who has a personal best of 86.48m and a season high of 85.63? With his first throw (82.26m) short of the automatic qualification mark, Neeraj must have been under immense pressure after his second effort was red-flagged as a foul. That probably pulled down his final throw (80.54m). But London is sure to offer some crucial lessons for the youngster.