India has never been an "athletics nation". Despite having a 1.3 billion strong population, the country doesn't follow athletics a great deal. Even among those who do, expectations of medals at the international stage are, at best, minimal.
But once in a while, talents emerge so bright that they make the people in this cricket-crazy nation take notice. One such talent is the young Neeraj Chopra, who etched his name in athletics history by creating a world junior record in the U-20 World Athletic Championship 2016 - a record that still holds!
Here are five interesting facts about Neeraj’s journey from a village in Haryana to becoming India’s hottest medal prospect in track & field events:
1. Humble roots in an agrarian family
Neeraj’s father Satish Kumar is a farmer in the village of Khandra in Panipat, Haryana. His mother is a housewife, and he has two sisters.
Neeraj developed an interest in javelin at the age of 11 after watching Jaiveer, a javelin athlete who represented Haryana, practise in the Panipat Stadium.
2. Obese as a kid
Weighing 80 kg when he was only 11, Neeraj’s introduction to javelin happened by chance during his visits to the Panipat Stadium in his bid to lose weight. He quickly took a liking for the sport and the rest, as they say, is history.
3. He once fractured his right wrist
What feet are to a footballer, the wrist is to a javelin thrower. But a few years back, Neeraj sustained a career-threatening fracture on his right wrist - the one he uses for his throws.
The road to recovery was long and tedious for this young lad, but he made it back with his determination and hard work.
4. He was congratulated by Mark Zuckerberg and Katrina Kaif
Neeraj got congratulatory messages from Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, and Bollywood star Katrina Kaif after his world record throw at the U-20 World Championship. This guy has surely made some major fans in India and across the globe!
5. Trained by the legendary Uwe Hohn
Uwe Hohn is a legend in the world of javelin, being the only athlete to have breached the 100-meter mark. His throw of 104.80 meters came in 1984, following which changes in the design of the javelin were made to prevent the danger of the javelin reaching too deep into the spectator space.
Indian fans would hope that the young protégé goes one better than the guru himself!
Neeraj will represent India as a part of the 53-member team at the 2018 Asian Games, which will take place in Jakarta. The Asian Games 2018 will commence on the 18th of August.Published 24 Jul 2018, 22:57 IST