Neeraj Chopra’s is the toast of the nation today! The demure Army man showed nerves of steel as he overcame the heartbreak of a foul throw at his first attempt to clinch the coveted Silver in the men’s javelin throw final at the World Championships in Oregon (US) on July 24.
It was Neeraj’s fourth throw of 88.13 metres, which saw him achieve what no Indian athlete has ever done before. In the process, he eclipsed long-jumper Anju Bobby George’s Bronze which she attained in Paris, way back in 2003. Following his historic feat, Neeraj dedicated his silver to Anju George, a truly admirable gesture by the 24-year-old Army man.
In a queer case of history repeating itself, Anju reminisced that she also won her Bronze after lying in the fourth place – something which exactly happened in Neeraj’s case. “I was thinking like me in Paris, he is in the fourth place after a disastrous first throw. But champions are made of different stuff and Neeraj proved that he is the greatest Indian athlete with his latest exploit,” she said.
Always a gracious opponent that he is, Neeraj was quick to give credit to Gold medalist Anderson Peters of Grenada with whom he shares a healthy rivalry. “He (Anderson) is a good competitor and I will treasure my rivalry with him,” said Neeraj. One is tempted to ask what sets Neeraj Chopra apart from other Indian athletes. Blitz India spoke to a crosssection of athletes to try and find out what makes Neeraj India’s greatest athlete with Gold in Olympics, Asian Games and CWG, apart from the Silver at the Worlds.
Anju Bobby George feels that it’s Neeraj’s cool composure and neversay-die attitude that sets him apart. “His (Neeraj’s) mental toughness and never-say-die attitude set him apart.
His mental toughness was evident when he overcame the crushing disappointment of a foul throw in his very first attempt. I am sure not many worldclass athletes can shrug off the disappointment of a foul throw and come back to win a Silver.
That’s a real commendable task,” said Anju. Ravi Dikshit, a former national-level athlete now settled in the US, feels that the vociferous Indian crowd support which he got in Oregon made a world of difference. “For anyone who was witnessing Neeraj’s laudable feat at Oregon, it was very evident that he enjoyed the solid support of the crowd, especially the Indian crowd. For any athlete, crowd support is a catalyst and there is no denying the fact that Neeraj was able to come up with his best because of the vociferous crowd support,” opined Ravi.
Another factor for Neeraj’s great show at the World Championships and Olympics is the fact he competes regularly with the best in the world. This view was voiced by Manish Kumar, former CEO of Athletic Federation of India (AFI). “The fact that Neeraj makes it a point to compete regularly with the world’s best in competitions like the Diamond League has given him the cutting-edge. It’s so important to pick and choose the tournaments one competes in… and Neeraj has excelled in this aspect, said Manish.