Can Neeraj Chopra be India's First Olympic Medallist in Athletics?

Asian Games - Day 9

Performance of Indian Athletes at World Stage: An Overview

Athletics is a sport, in which India has been a dominant force in the Asian level for decades. But when it comes to the Olympics and the World Championships, the Indian athletes have failed to make a mark.

India has consistently produced good athletes, but hardly produced any champions who could win medals for the country in World events.

As a result, India is yet to win an Olympic medal in Athletics.

The two greatest athletes the country has ever produced, viz Milkha Singh and PT Usha, came tantalizingly close to winning a medal at the Olympics. But both of them were unlucky to finish fourth.

Another world class athlete of recent times, Anju Bobby George, won medals in all big events, like the World Championships and the World Cup Finals. But an Olympic medal eluded her too. She finished at the 6th position, even after giving her best ever effort, in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Discuss throwers, Vikas Gowda and Krishna Poonia have been in the top 8, in Olympics, but were never really close to winning a medal.

Arrival of Neeraj Chopra to the Scene

A country with such a mediocre history in athletics, suddenly woke up one morning, in the year 2016, to the news of a 19-year-old Indian Javelin thrower creating a world record. This marked the arrival of Neeraj Chopra.

He threw the Javelin to a distance of 86.48m to win the World Under 20 Championships, in Poland. This was a Junior World Record throw. It was a throw that could have made him a contender win an Olympic medal also.

With this performance, Neeraj Chopra showed the world that he is a star in the making.

Neeraj Chopra's Journey Thereafter

After being the best in the World, at the junior level, Neeraj smoothly graduated to the senior level. He was already the country's best Javelin thrower, by a distance. He took no time in becoming Asia's best as he won the Asian Championships 2017, in Bhubaneswar, by throwing a distance of 85.23m. He also competed in the prestigious IAAF Diamond League Events for the first time in 2017. There he finished in the seventh position.

However, in the 2017 World Champions, he had a very disappointing outing. He finished in the 15th position. For a brief period in 2017, he struggled to better his personal best and be amongst the top ten Javelin throwers in the world.

But after training under legendary Uwe Hohn, Neeraj came back with a bang. He won the gold medal in Commonwealth Games 2018 with a throw of 86.47m, to beat a very strong field. Then he threw his personal best of 87.43m in the Doha leg of Diamond League 2018.

He won the Asian Games with an 88.06m throw, which was one of the best throws of the season.

Thus Neeraj continuously bettered his personal best. With age on his side, it is only a matter of time, before he throws the Javelin over 90m.

Neeraj's Chance in 2020 Tokyo Olympics

With the great German trio of Thomas Rohler, Joannes Vetter and Andreas Hofmann throwing the Javelin consistently over 90m in all major tournaments, Neeraj has to improve further to be in the top three. He is presently ranked sixth in the world with the German trio, and Estonia's Magnus Kirt and Check Republic's Jakub Vadlejch ahead of him.

Neeraj is the youngest of the top six. He is also the most improved Javelin thrower in the world in 2018. With the Tokyo Olympics still 2 years away, it can be expected that Neeraj will improve further and catch up with the Germans by the time the Olympics arrive.

If Neeraj keeps improving, like he has been in 2018, he will surely be a favourite to win a medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

And if he produces his best performance, he can even end up with a Gold medal at the Olympics.

Neeraj is already one of the greatest athletes India has ever produced.

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Edited by Kishan Prasad
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