Neeraj Chopra, the overweight kid who made it big

Neeraj was not too fond of running, but when he saw a few big men throwing the javelin, he wanted to try it too.

Neeraj Chopra with his gold medal in Tokyo on Saturday.   -  PTI

Neeraj Chopra got a lift from German Johannes Vetter a few weeks ago on the way to the airport in Finland.

“My English is not strong but we spoke for some time about our country, our background, about our early years,” said Neeraj about the encounter with the German, the world's best javelin thrower this year. That close encounter perhaps helped Neeraj realise that Vetter was just another competitor and hence beatable.

Neeraj was an overweight kid, and a bit restless too, at the Khandra village, near Panipat. Since they wanted to keep him occupied, his dad, a farmer took him to the Shivaji stadium. He had tried many other sports too. He was not too fond of running but when he saw a few big men throwing the javelin, he wanted to try it too.

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And when he realised that he was good at it, he started loving it more.

“He is a 'natural' when it comes to the javelin throw,” said Australian Gary Calvert who coached him to the under-20 gold at the 2016 Worlds in Poland.

Many, including Calvert and Volker Herrmann, who was the AFI's High Performance Director before quitting in November, felt that Neeraj would start winning medals from the 2024 Olympics.

The postponement of the 2020 Olympics by a year turned out to be a blessing for the Indian.

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