Career of Neeraj Chopra – When we talk about athletics in India, only one name comes to our mind – Neeraj Chopra. Neeraj Chopra, who competes in the javelin throw category, is the first-ever Indian to win a gold medal in Olympics in athletics. He is also the first ‘track and field’ athlete of India to win at the IAAF World U20 Championships. Wherein in 2016, he achieved a record of the longest throw of 86.48m in the under-20 category.
Chopra participated in the 2018 Asian Games and 2018 Commonwealth Games and won gold medals in both events. In his debut appearance in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, he threw 87.58m gold-winning throw, in his second attempt on 7 August 2021.
The only Indian along with Chopra, who has won a gold medal in the individual event in Olympics, is Abhinav Bindra, who bagged a gold in shooting. But if we talk about ‘track and field’ events, then there is no one alongside this young man. Decorated with ‘Vishisht Seva Medal’, Neeraj Chopra is a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Indian Army and presently holds the rank of ‘Subedar’.
This 24-year old promising athlete, who hails from a middle-class family of Khandra, is definitely going to be a big inspiration to youths of India for many years to come.
Chopra was born in a humble middle-class farmer family on 24 December 1997, in Khandra village, Panipat district in Haryana, to Satish Kumar, a farmer, and Saroj Devi a housewife. He has two younger sisters and his family is mainly involved in agriculture. Neeraj Chopra graduated from Dayanand Anglo Vedic College, Chandigarh. And now he currently is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts from Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar, Punjab (as of 2021).
Career of Neeraj Chopra
This athletic champion in his childhood was a little obese and other children tended to tease him. To get him fit, his father enrolled him in a gymnasium at Madlauda and here this young boy got interested in physical endurance training. Later on, he was enrolled in a gym in Panipat where he got in contact with some javelin throwers and began participating himself in these.
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Dedicated Chopra then visited the Sports ऑथर ity of India (SAI) centre in the winter of 2010, where he got in contact with javelin thrower Jaiveer Choudhary, who recognized his talent first hand. Observing his ability to achieve an amateur throw of 40m without any training and impressed Choudhary became his first coach.
The First Medal
From Choudhary and from other experienced athletes who were trained by a Jalahdhar coach, here this young athlete learned basic techniques of javelin throwing. Soon, in a district championship, he won his Career of Neeraj Chopra first medal. After that, he convinced his family to let him live in Panipat for more training to pursue his interest.
After training with Choudhary, Chopra enrolled at Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex in Panchkula, at the age of 13. At that time, this sports facility was only one of the two facilities which were equipped with a synthetic runway, in the state of Haryana. Here, Neeraj Chopra was trained for long-distance running along with javelin throw. Under Naseem Ahmed, a running coach, Chopra trained with fellow partner Parminder Singh. With Javelin thrower Parminder, both attempted to copy Czech champion Jan Zelezny after watching some videos of him. At that time, there was no specialized coach in Panchkula.
Initially, Chopra achieved throws of about 55 metres but soon increased the range, when on October 27, 2012, he won a gold medal and made a national record with the throw of 68.40 metres in National Junior Athletics Championships, Lucknow.
In 2013, Chopra participated for the first time in an international competition, the World Youth Championships in Ukraine, but could not win any medal. This first medal from an international event came in 2014, as a silver at the Youth Olympics Qualification, Bangkok. He made a first over 70 metres throw at the 2014 senior nationals. A year later, Chopra broke the existing world record in the junior category with a throw range of 81.04 metres in 2015 at the All India Inter-University Athletics meet, a first-ever 80+ metres throw.
Chopra finished 5th at the 2015 National Games, Kerala which resulted in his calling back of him in 2016 for a national training camp at Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Patiala.
Neeraj Chopra marks his inclusion in the national training camp as a turning point of his career, as it facilitated him with an elevated standard of training, a better quality diet, and a chance to train with national-level javelin throwers that boosted his confidence and morale. Chopra was also assigned his first dedicated coach, Kashinath Naik, a 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist. But this company could not last long and soon this young athlete found Naik’s training regimen to be too difficult and just after a month and a half, he resumed training on his own.
Junior World Championship, 2016 and Army Induction
In the 2016 South Asian Games, Chopra fell just short of the Olympic qualifying mark of 83 metres but recorded a new personal best of 82.23 metres throw during athletics finals. With this, he got to chance to train under Australian coach Gary Calvert. The same year, he won a gold medal in the 2016 IAAF Career of Neeraj Chopra World U20 Championships in Poland. With this he set a world record in the junior category with a throw of 86.48 metres. This made a national record too, and made him a first-ever Indian who has achieved such feat.
Junior World Championship 2016 and Army induction
In the 2016 South Asian Games, Chopra scored a new personal best in Guwahati during the athletics final on 9 February, winning gold with a throw of 82.23 meters, though falling short of the 83-meter Olympic qualifying mark. In the same month, he also got the chance to train under Gary Calvert, an Australian coach.
Thereafter, in the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships in Poland, Chopra became the first Indian athlete by setting a world record in the junior category with a throw of 86.48 m, which was a national record too.
Defending Olympic champion, Keshorn Walcott held that record up to then. Although, Chopra broke the record but failed to qualify for 2016 summer Olympics. This feat happened a week post the cut-off date (11 July).
Due to a back injury sustained in April 2016 which did not allow him to practice properly, he also could not perform up to the mark in Federation Cup, New Delhi.
After South Asian Games, impressed with his feats, the Indian Army offered him direct inclusion at the post of Naik Subedar. India Army generally does not offer a JCO rank a NCO recruit. But Mr. Chopra got JOC rank in Rajputana Rifles.
In September 2016, he began to train at Sports Authority India after leaving Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Bangalore. To allow its future potential to train more for upcoming big events, the Indian Army extended Chopra’s leave right after conferring Junior Commission Officer (JCO) rank in 2016.
Asian Games Feat
Chopra performed remarkably in the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships. He won the gold medal with a throw of 85.23 metres. He then participated in London for World Championships but failed to make it to the finals. The same year, on 24 August, he suffered a severe groin injury in the finals of Zurich Diamond League.
In his third attempt, he made the mark Career of Neeraj Chopra of 83.39 metres. For the fourth attempt, his throw was fouled. And he did not appear for subsequent attempts owing to his injury. In this event, Chopra placed in 7th position with his best throw of 83.80 metres. He achieved this feat in his very first attempt. In the remaining time of 2017, he could not appear in any event.
To recover from injury, Chopra spent a month in Vijayanagar at Joint Services Wing sports institute. After recovery, he left for Germany to train for three months in Offenburg with Werner Daniels. However, he had briefly trained before the 2017 World Championships. Here he focused on strength training and honed his technique with Daniels’ guidance. Here, he adjusted his stance and tried to improve his range by keeping his hand raised higher during throws.
Commonwealth Games Medal
In 2018, at the Commonwealth Career of Neeraj Chopra Games, he scored his season-best with a throw of 86.47 metres and became the first Indian athlete to win the javelin category.
In May 2018, Chopra once again broke the national record with a throw of 87.47 metres in the Doha Diamond League. The same year on August 27, improving his own national record with a throw of 88.06 metres he won gold in Asian Games 2018. He was also the flag bearer in this event.
In September 2018, Chopra got Arjuna Award. In the same year, Athletics Federation of India (AFI) recommended him for Major Dhyanchand Khel Ratna award.
With this, Indian Army further promoted him out-of-turn to the rank of ‘Subedar’.
2020 Tokyo Olympics
Due to the global pandemic ‘Tokyo Olympics 2020’ was postponed further to 2021. In the quest to perform his best in the event, Chopra trained with German coach ‘Uwe Hohn’. He hired services of physiotherapist Ishaan Marwaha and biomechanics expert Klaus Bartonietz.
|1992 Barcelona||Jan Zelezny (Czechoslovakia)||Seppo Raty (Finland)||Steve Backley (Great Britain)|
|1996 Atlanta||Jan Zelezny (Czech Republic)||Steve Backley (Great Britain)||Seppo Raty (Finland)|
|2000 Sydney||Jan Zelezny (Czech Republic)||Steve Backley (Great Britain)||Sergey Makarov (Russia)|
|2004 Athens||Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway)||Vadims Vasilevskis (Lativia)||Sergey Makarov (Russia)|
|2008 Beijing||Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway)||Ainars Kovals (Latvia)||Tero Pitkamaki (Finland)|
|2012 London||Keshorn Walcott (Trinidad and Tobago)||Antti Ruuskanen (Finland)||Vitezslay Vesely (Czech Republic)|
|2016 Rio de Janeiro||Thomas Rohler (Germany)||Juius Yego (Kenya)||Keshorn Walcott (Trinidad and Tobago)|
|2020 Tokyo||Neeraj Chopra (India)||Jakub Vadlejch (Czech Republic)||Vitezslav Vesely (Czech Republic)s|
Chopra made it to the final in his debut at the Olympics with 86.58 metres. He scored the top rank in qualifying rounds. On August 7, 2021, Chopra won the gold medal with a throw of 87.58 in his second attempt. And he became the first-ever Indian athlete to achieve this in the ‘track and field’ category.
The Road Ahead
This young sportsman has great potential to achieve many more milestones in the upcoming years. He is a great inspiration to youths in India. With Olympics achievement, he certainly set precedence in track and field athletics in India. He has rejuvenated the sports culture in the country. Who knows other such goals will not be achieved in the imminent future after this?
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