Where EAST meets the Northwest
AMAZING ARM. Neeraj Chopra of India competes in the menís javelin throw final
at the World Athletics Championships on July 23, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon. There
was no grand plan that launched Chopra on the path to becoming an Olympic
champion javelin thrower, only a simple suggestion. Pudgy and pampered ó his
description ó as a kid growing up in the northern part of India, Chopraís uncle
suggested one day that he head out to a nearby stadium to get some exercise. It
was there that Chopra first saw the javelin. Chopra won a silver medal at the
championships held in Eugene last month. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
ACCOMPLISHED ATHLETE. Silver medallist Neeraj Chopra of India poses during a
medal ceremony for the menís javelin throw final at the World Athletics
Championships on July 23, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon. Since becoming Indiaís first
Olympic gold medallist in track and field last year, Chopraís name has become
one of the most searched on the internet among athletes in a country where
cricket rules. August 7 in India is National Javelin Day ó the day Chopra won
gold in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
From The Asian Reporter, V32, #8 (August 1, 2022), pages 1 & 14.
Love at first flight: Indian javelin thrower inspires nation
By Pat Graham
The Associated Press
EUGENE, Ore. ó There was no grand plan that launched Neeraj Chopra on the
path to becoming an Olympic champion javelin thrower, only a simple suggestion.
Pudgy and pampered ó his description ó as a kid growing up in the northern
part of India, Chopraís uncle suggested one day that he head out to a nearby
stadium to get some exercise.
It was there that Chopra first saw the javelin. Some might say it was love at
first flight ó a twist of fate that has made him a gold medallist and a
recognizable name in a country of a billion people. Last month at the world
championships in Eugene, Oregon, Chopra added a silver medal to his list of
"I keep hearing stories about kids wanting to take up athletics and parents
also being more open to allowing their children to take up sport," the
24-year-old Chopra said in an e-mail interview with The Associated Press. "That
is what I believe is the true legacy of my medal, and it is something I am
incredibly happy and proud about."
Since he became Indiaís first Olympic gold medallist in track and field last
year, Chopra has appeared on the cover of Vogue India and his name has
become one of the most searched on the internet among athletes in a country
where cricket rules. August 7 in India is National Javelin Day ó the day he took
the gold in Tokyo.
It wasnít all by accident.
Growing up, he always loved to throw. Heíd get the familyís cattle out of the
water by throwing stones close to them, no matter how far away he was. He loved
throwing sticks as far as he could while walking around his familyís wheat and
It helped turn his right arm into a potent machine. His very first javelin
throw was a modest 30 or so meters (98 feet, 5 inches). Two weeks, and a few
tips later, he was already up to 45 meters (147 feet, 7 inches).
"I remember it felt very good to be able to throw so far," he said.
He was only getting started. His winning throw in Tokyo was 87.58 meters (287
feet, 4 inches). These days, heís recognized everywhere he goes in India ó
streets, malls, airports, and restaurants. Everyone wants to take a picture with
Chopra or get his autograph.
"Itís different from earlier when I could be more carefree about roaming
around in public, but I like to think of it as me being privileged to receive so
much adulation," Chopra said. "Iím mostly grateful for the support."
Thereís pressure, too, as one of the most familiar faces in a country that
reveres cricket, soccer, badminton, field hockey, and, now, the javelin.
"I try to go into every competition with the same aim, which is to do my best
and try to achieve my best throw," Chopra said. "As long as Iíve been training
well and feeling good about my body, I am confident about my chances and thatís
the mindset I usually use going into any competition, be it the Olympics or
world championships. Itís worked for me in the past, so hopefully, it continues
to work for me."
In May, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) debuted a kidsí javelin to
encourage an even safer way to take part in the sport. The launch was announced
by none other than Chopra in a video message.
"We cannot let go of the spike in interest for athletics among youngsters in
India," AFI president Adille J. Sumariwalla said in a release.
Chopra also is in the Indian Army, holding the rank of subedar, which is one
higher than junior commissioned officer, he explained. Heís been given no
specific military requirements other than to keep doing what he does best ó
In that regard, Chopra is still searching for that "perfect" throw, where
everything comes together. He had a setback in May 2019 when he underwent elbow
surgery to remove bone fragments that had dislodged. That led him to miss the
world championships in Doha that season, which made him more eager for the
version of worlds held in Oregon last month.
Chopra has returned to the shape he was in before elbow surgery. In late
June, he threw 89.94 (295 feet, 1 inch) ó the longest throw of his career. For
perspective, the world record is 98.48 (323 feet, 1 inch) set by Jan Zelezny in
"Despite the many competitions Iíve competed in and throws Iíve thrown,
thereís always this feeling that something could have been better," Chopra said.
"Having said that, I think that feeling is also important to keep the hunger and
drive to do better alive."
It also helps knowing there are kids in India getting involved because of
"I am known as Neeraj Chopra," he said, "because of javelin."
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