In a red-letter day for Indian athletics, 19-year-old Neeraj Chopra carved out a new Under-20 World Record and clinched the Gold in the men’s javelin throw at the World U20 Championships in Bydogszcz, Poland. The JSW-supported Neeraj’s second attempt of 86.48 meters broke the earlier World Record of Latvian thrower Zigsimunds Sirmais by almost two meters. South Africa’s Johan Grobler (80.59m) finished second while Grenada’s Anderson Peters (79.69m) came third.
Neeraj, a native of Panipat in Haryana, began the event strongly, logging a throw of 79.66 meters in his first attempt which put him in lead, albeit provisionally. South Africa’s Grobler’s attempt of 80.59 meters took away the lead from Neeraj, but it was all too brief. The stocky Neeraj roared back with a massive throw of 86.48 meters, one that allowed him to retake the lead in comfortable fashion. Neeraj had earlier made the cut for the finals of the event with a best effort of 78.20 meters in the qualification round.
Neeraj becomes India’s first World U20 Championship Gold medallist and was understandably ecstatic after achieving the feat. “It is an incredible feeling. I was feeling strong and confident before the event and after the first throw I was sure I could go farther,” he said. Neeraj becomes India's first ever Gold medallist in any world athletic event. “When the spear left my hand on that second throw, I had a feeling that this was a special throw. I don’t think I expected it to go over 86 meters but since the last couple of months, I have worked hard on my fitness, my technique and it all paid off today,” he said.
A beneficiary of the JSW Sports Excellence Program, Neeraj has been training under Australian coach Garry Calvert at the Olympic Training Centre in Spala, Poland for the last two months. Neeraj said that it was the hard work put in by his coaches and the support of his family that proved to be instrumental in his success. “I have worked hard for this. Garry sir (Calvert) has been a huge source of knowledge and help. JSW have provided excellent support and my parents have always backed me to push myself to be the best in whatever it is that I do,” beamed Chopra.
Interestingly, Neeraj had equalled the senior men’s National Record (NR) at the South Asian Games with a throw of 82.23 meters and was the world's best junior thrower coming into the World U20 Championship.