“There’s a lot more to achieve”

It Isn’t The Most Common Sport But India Stopped And Took Notice When A Boy From Haryana Broke The Junior World Record For The Javelin Throw. Here’s Neeraj Chopra’s Story…

July 23rd 2016. The stage is the cold city of Bydgoszcz, in Poland. All of 18 years old and javelin in hand, he approaches the white line. He’s thousands of miles away from his village in Haryana and has never been further away from his family in his life. But when he starts his run up, Neeraj Chopra says he’s never felt more at home.

“When I called my family from Poland, they told the whole village that I had won a medal abroad. But that’s all it was; a medal abroad. Even today it keeps me grounded. Back in Khandra, my family doesn’t let me realize that I hold a Junior World Record and it helps because I know there’s a lot more to achieve,” Neeraj says with a smile.

His mark of 86.48 meters made Chopra the eighth among all throwers in 2016. The effort would better that of Keshorn Walcott’s Olympic winning throw of 84.58 meters back at the 2012 London Games. But, looking back Neeraj says it was about giving it everything he had when he got the chance.

“My first throw was at 79.66, so I knew had to do better. When the spear left my hand for the second time, I knew it was a special throw. I didn’t expect to clear 86 meters but I’d worked hard for it and I gave it everything I had,” he says.

Training at the Sports Authority of India facility in Bengaluru, Neeraj speaks highly of JSW Sports, who have supported him since he was spotted at a National Camp in Patiala as a 17 year old.

“JSW Sports has helped me a lot. When I was in Patiala, I had no sponsorship or job or anything. My parents would send some money when they could but that was never enough. JSW Sports supported me from the moment they took me under their wing and I’m very happy to be a part of this family. A lot of people have come and gone in the last two or three years, but JSW Sports and their support has been constant and I cannot be thankful enough for that,” he adds.

Just over 400 families live in Khandra, where Neeraj grew up. From a village that did not even have an athletics field, the 19-year-old says getting to the top was not easy.

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure about becoming an athlete. I’d take the bus to a ground in Panipat which was over 15 kilometers away just to keep myself fit. I was introduced to the sport by a friend who trained there. It caught up after that, and at one point, it became madness. I knew that I had to do something with this sport. I took it upon myself to show my family what I can achieve. Now, I want to do the same for the country.”

Medal or not, Neeraj believes that the most important thing is to develop the sport and build interest among others. While he has his sights set on the 2017 Senior World Championship, the youngster reminds us that the bigger picture is beyond any medal or podium.

“It’s always nice to win or break a record. I’ll always fight for a place on the podium but in the long run, I want to make athletics and the Javelin-throw a growing sport in the country. Wrestling is getting a lot of attention in India because our wrestlers are doing so well. I want the same for Javelin and that’s what drives me to do well,” he signs off.