Seldom does one see an Indian athlete dominate an international event with such ease and swagger. On August 27, India’s javelin star Neeraj Chopra did just that, and became the second Indian after Milkha Singh to win gold at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in the same year. As Neeraj took to the field at the GBK Stadium in Jakarta, the Indians in the crowd were cheering their hearts out. And, after his first throw of 83.46m, a gold seemed a sure bet. In hindsight, it was a foregone conclusion. In his third attempt, the Haryana lad threw the spear a massive 88.06m, breaking his personal best of 87.43m at the Diamond League of International Association of Athletics Federations, in Doha, in May. Neeraj’s main rival, Chinese Taipei’s Chao-tsun Cheng, who holds an Asian record of 91.36m, could conjure up only 79.81m. The second best throw was 82.22m, by the China’s Qizhen Liu. After the event, THE WEEK caught up with Neeraj to talk about his performance, future aspirations and the Indian contingent at the Asian Games.
Excerpts from an interview:
You have broken your own record. How do you feel?
I did my best and have broken the national record. It feels really good.
When will you hit the 90m mark?
See, I have been trying. I am giving my 100 per cent. But, I do not take pressure of throwing 90m. No one can really say. It will happen when it happens.
You were India’s flag-bearer at the Games opening. How was the experience?
It gave me a lot of confidence and encouraged me to do well.
Your previous coach, Garry Calvert, died a few months ago. Was that playing on your mind?
I was really sad when I came to know about it. But, it is God’s will, we cannot do anything about it.
A lot of others, especially in athletics, have been winning medals. What do you have to say about their performances?
Yes, the Indian athletes are performing really well this time. We have done well in wrestling, badminton and shooting. It is going really well.
Your rival from Chinese Taipei, Chao-tsun Cheng, was not consistent today.
We are not able to be that consistent every time. He is a good thrower, he has thrown more than 91m, but it depends on the day.
Whom would you like to dedicate this gold to?
Everyone has been dedicating their medals to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji. I would also like to do the same.