The meteoric rise of Neeraj Chopra

The 23-year old from Haryana's Khandra village in Panipat district, started his career as a 13-year old kid at the Sports Authority of India centre in Panipat

Neeraj Chopra
Neeraj Chopra

Rohit Bhandiye

India’s latest sporting sensation Neeraj Chopra who created history by becoming India’s first individual gold medalist in track and field event at the Olympics was already a big name in world’s javelin throw event even before he won that historic gold in Tokyo.

Over the years, Neeraj Chopra’s rise has been phenomenal. The 23-year old from Haryana's Khandra village in Panipat district, started his career as a 13-year old kid at the Sports Authority of India centre in Panipat. Chopra's ability to achieve a 40-metre throw without any training impressed javelin thrower Jaiveer Choudhary who became his first coach.

After training under Choudhary for a year, Chopra moved to the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex in Panchkula, four hours from his home where he trained under coach Naseem Ahmed.

Initially, while at Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, Neeraj used to typically achieve throws of around 55 metres. In 2012, during junior nationals in Lucknow, Neeraj achieved a throw of 68.40 meters which was a junior national record.

His first international medal in came in 2014, a silver at the Youth Olympics Qualification in Bangkok.

Chopra recorded his first throw of over 70 meters at the 2014 Senior Nationals in New Delhi. He followed this up with a world record throw in the junior category of 81.04 metres at the 2015 All India Inter-University Athletics Meet in Karnataka. This was his first throw of over 80 metres. At the 2016 South Asian Games in Guwahati, his golden throw of 84.23 metres equalled the national record.

Training under Australian coach Gary Calvert, Neeraj further improved upon this performance by winning gold at the 2016 IAAF World U-20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland and setting a new world junior record of 86.48 metres. He thus became the first Indian athlete to win gold at the World Junior Athletics Championship. This achievement got him noticeable recognition and fame in India.

In 2018, Chopra again broke the national record with a throw of 87.43 metres at the Doha Diamond League. He bettered his record at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia with a throw of 88.06 metres to win the gold, which was India's first gold in javelin throw at the Asian Games.

In May 2019, Chopra suffered an elbow injury and underwent a surgery and was out of competitions for 16 months. He even travelled to South Africa in November 2019 for training under German biomechanics expert Klaus Bartoneitz.

In March 2021, Neeraj broke his own national record once again with a throw of 88.07 metres at the Indian Grand Prix in Patiala.

Chopra now trains under the legendary German coach Uwe Hohn, the first person to throw the javelin over 100 metres. Before Hohn, Neeraj trained under another German coach Werner Daniels.

On that fateful night in Tokyo, Neeraj’s monstrous effort of 87.53 metres got India its only medal in Athletics at the Olympic Games in 121 years and that too a gold.

Chopra wanted to break the Olympic record of 90.57 metres in Tokyo but could not do so. His next target is to cross the 90 metre mark which very few javelin throwers in the world have achieved so far.

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