Neeraj Chopra hits gold with javelin

Neeraj was a favourite for gold after his 85.94m throw last month at Patiala during Federation Cup National Championships.

Neeraj Chopra aims for the sweet spot at the men’s javelin throw final in Gold Coast, Australia on Saturday.   -  AFP

It was his stage all along and Neeraj Chopra didn't want to let it go and killed the rest of the field with his monster opener of 85.50m. It was a lonely battle at the top for the 20-year-old world junior record holder thereafter, before he touched a season best of 86.47m and became India’s fourth individual gold medal winner in Commonwealth Games history in track and field.

The packed house watching the final day’s action at the Carrara stadium on Saturday did soak this great moment as it was also India’s first gold medal in the athletic events of the current Games. Milkha Singh, winning the 440 yards in 1958 (Cardiff) was the first athlete to win the gold for India and after a long wait the other two had come in quick succession – Krishna Poonia (women’s discus throw at New Delhi 2010) and Vikas Gowda (Glasgow 2014). The only other yellow metal triumph for the country besides these is the one achieved by the women’s 4x400m relay in New Delhi.

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Neeraj was always the favourite to win, though the Australians did believe that Hamish Peacock would go all the way backed by the crowd, perhaps not realising that this young Indian was in great form and had touched his best mark of 85.94 on Indian soil only a month ago. Neeraj kicked off in style with that 85.50m and went on nonchalantly to script out a terrific series, that included two fouls – one in the second and the other in the second. It was in round four that he found the day’s best distance, which was only one centimetre shy of the winning distance of 86.48m in the 2016 world junior championships in Poland.

Besides these two efforts, the other valid throws of Neeraj read: 84.78m and 83.48, all above Peacock, who had to settle for silver. The Australian's best of the day was 82.59m, while that of the bronze medallist, Grenada’s Anderson Peters was 82.20. Vikas Kashana, the other Indian in the fray, finished fifth with a best of 77.87m.

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"I am feeling amazing and Would like to thank all who helped me to achieve this. The crowd too was encouraging, which is a must for javelin throwers," Neeraj said after the win.

Arpinder Singh was not that lucky as his dreams of a second consecutive bronze medal was demolished by Marcel Mayak (Cameroon), who came up with a personal best of 16.80, which led to the Indian finishing fourth place with 16.46m. The Indian had started off with 16.35m and then fouls later had touched 16.46m in the fourth round, which gave hope of another podium finish. But that was not to be in the end as Troy Doris (Guyana) took gold (16.88m) and Gracia Yordonys (Dominica) the silver (16.86).

Though he was well outside the medal bracket, Jinson Johnson should be a happy man, that his credible fifth place in the men’s 1500m also helped him to obliterate the long standing National record in the event, in the name of Bahadur Prasad since the 1995 SAF Games in Chennai.The Kerala athlete was timed on Saturday at 3:37.86 whereas Prasad’s record was 3:38.00.

The day also marked the first ever Games medal and that too the glittering one for Saint Lucia as Leven Spencer sailed through to a height of 1.95m to take the women’s high jump. The other highlights of the day was the continuing dominance of Kenya in the long distance (5000m women) and the surprise double landed by England in the 400m relay.