The 16th edition of International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships will be special for India.
For the first time, an Indian contingent will display its prowess at the biennial athletics event, with the largest number of athletes in tow. After Dutee Chand was added last month to the list, 25 athletes will represent the nation at this event in London.
Following a phenomenal performance at the Asian Athletics Championships last month, where Indians athletes stood tall among star sportsmen and sportswomen from the world over during the award ceremony, all eyes are now set on the World Championships.
The one Indian athlete everyone has high expectations from is the 19-year-old Neeraj Chopra, who will be participating in the men’s javelin throw.
Here is everything you need to know about India’s fast-rising javelinist!
1. Born and brought up in the village of Khandra in Haryana’s Panipat district, Neeraj began his tryst with sports through cricket and volleyball matches with his friends. However, the changeover to javelin came in 2011 with a push from his uncle.
2. Coming from a modest agrarian background, Neeraj’s family comprises his parents and two younger sisters, none of whom have any inclination towards sports.
3. Breaking the U-16 national record with a throw of 68.46m in 2012, Neeraj stunned everyone with his stellar performance by winning gold at the 28th Junior Nationals in Lucknow. Two years later, he repeated the feat, this time by breaking the U-18 national mark with a throw of 76.50m.
4. The prodigious athlete soon went on to break another record at the all-India Inter-University Championships in 2015. Neeraj’s 81.04m throw that broke the national U-20 record was declared the best U-20 mark of the year.
5. Neeraj’s exploits don’t stop here. Rather, it has only begun. Not only did he win gold with his first throw at the South Asian Games in 2016, his remarkable throw of 82.23m broke the Asian U-20 record and equalled the national Indian record.
6. However, Neeraj’s moment of fame came in July 2016, where his throw of 86.48m broke the junior world record at the IAAF World U-20 Championships, making him India’s first-ever world champion in athletics.
7. This year seems to have been very fruitful for the young athlete with one win after another. Starting with Asian Athletics Championships in July, Neeraj became the champion of Asia by winning gold with a throw of 85.23m in his final attempt.
8. Following that, he participated in the prestigious Diamond League event. He took part in the Paris leg, where he finished fifth with a throw of 84.67m. He is the second Indian athlete to have reached the level after prolific discuss thrower and shot putter, Vikas Gowda.
9. The young man was compared to Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson by his former coach Garry Calvert for his awe-inspiring performance. Calvert had coached the cricketer when he was 16, who was then trying his hand at javelin, back in Australia.
10. If Neeraj manages to make a mark at the Championships, he will become the second Indian to do so after the unforgettable performance by Anju Bobby George in 2005.