Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra kept India’s hopes of an elusive Olympic medal from track and field events alive by earning a direct qualification into the finals with a stunning throw of 86.65m that put him on the top of the Group A contest on Wednesday. Competing in his first Olympics, the 23-year-old Chopra took just a few seconds to make to the final round to be held on Saturday as he sent the spear well past the qualifying mark of 83.50m in his first attempt.
Chopra’s performance on Saturday will go down as one of the best performances by an Indian in the Olympics, as he finished ahead of gold medal favourite and 2017 world champion Johannes Vetter of Germany. Chopra said that he was looking at improving his performance in the final. “It will be a different feeling (in the finals), since it is my first time in the Olympics. Physically we (all) train hard, and are ready, but I also need to prepare mentally. I will need to focus on the throw, and try to repeat this (performance) with a higher score,” he said. Vetter, who had earlier said that Chopra will find it tough to beat him in the Olympics, struggled in his first two throws before crossing the automatic qualification mark with a 85.64m final throw. Chopra is the reigning Commonwealth Games and Asian Games Champion and the only Indian in history to win gold in a field event in athletics at both those events.
India’s Shivpal Singh failed to advance to the final after registering a best throw of 76.40m in the qualification round. Shivpal finished in 27th place in his maiden Olympics. Neeraj is now the poster boy for Indian athletics and is India’s great hope for a track and field medal at the Olympics. Chopra will next be in action in the final on Saturday, August 7th at 4:30 pm.