India’s ace Javelin thrower, Neeraj Chopra, began his maiden Olympic campaign on a strong note after he achieved direct qualification for the final of the Men’s Javelin Throw event at Tokyo 2020 Olympics after registering a 86.65m throw with his first attempt.
Johannes Vetter from Germany, was arguably everyone’s bet to top Group A of Men’s Javelin Throw Qualification in Tokyo 2020, especially as he used to clear 90+m on a regular basis. But he could not even make an 84m throw in his first couple of attempts. 83.50m is the direct qualification mark for the event final. The sizable German finally finished second after making a 85.64m throw.
Incidentally, this is Neeraj Chopra’s maiden Olympic campaign. His warm-up throw fell well short of expectations and seemed a bit jittery. Despite releasing the spear after a long hard run, and trying to generate as much power as possible, the Javelin made a sudden dip, falling way short.
“I turned to my coach. He told me to complete my follow through as I was a bit stiff in that. So I decided to throw a little flatter, which would mean there would be not much turbulence and the javelin will travel longer.”
The 23-year-old started 16th on the list in the qualification round. He could see Vetter, who is a good friend of his off the pitch, struggling in the first attempt.
“He is a world champion and a world class thrower but was struggling a bit so I thought, ‘conditions seem to be tough’.”
Taking notes from his warm-up throws, Chopra simply tried to hit the qualification mark of 83.50m but ended up hitting the highest score of the day of 86.65m. With that humongous throw, Chopra became the topper of Group A in the qualifiers. Until then the only thrower to have breached the qualification mark, was Lassi Etelatalo from Finland, with a commendable 84.50m throw.
Chopra came into the Olympics as one of India’s medal hopefuls, after having demonstrated top form in different competitions since March. His season began on a high after he registered a new national record throw of 88.06m, at the Indian Grand Prix. Later he made another great effort of 87.80m at the Federation Cup. While he was in Europe preparing for the Summer Games, Chopra made an 83.18m throw at a Lisbon meet. He also won gold in Sweden after breaching 80.96m, before clinching bronze at the Kuortane Games in Finland with 86.79m.
The only thing that Chopra feels that he really has had to sacrifice for these performances, is his long flowy hair.