Neeraj Chopra: 10 things you need to know about India's first world champion in athletics
At just 19 years of age, he has already won several medals for India.
The IAAF World Championships 2017 are currently underway in London and for this edition, India has sent its largest-ever contingent for the 10-day extravaganza. 25 athletes will represent the nation at the premier event, after Dutee Chand was added last moment in the women's 100m.
Despite a historic performance at the Asian Athletics Championships last month that saw India finish on top of the medal tally ahead of the likes of China, Japan, Bahrain and Qatar, there are not many hopes from the athletes to return home with a medal.
However, if one has to single out our brightest prospect at the event, it has to be 19-year-old Neeraj Chopra, who will take part in the men's javelin throw and has an outside chance of making it to the podium. Here are 10 things you should know about India's next big hope in athletics!
#1 Chopra was born and brought up on December 24, 1997 in a village named Khandra in Haryana's Panipat district. He started his sporting journey with cricket and volleyball, playing with his friends but was shifted to javelin by his uncle in 2011.
#2 His mother is a homemaker and his father is a farmer. Speaking about his family background, he once said, “My mother is a homemaker and my father is a farmer. My two younger sisters don’t show any interest in sports.”
#3 He burst on to the scene in 2012 where he broke the U16 national record with a throw of 68.46m to win gold at the 28th Junior Nationals in Lucknow. Two years later, he broke the U18 national mark as well with a 76.50m effort.
#4 The youngster quickly moved up the ranks and at the all-India Inter-University Championships, he broke the national U20 record as well with an 81.04m throw on December 31, 2015, which also the best U20 mark of the year.
#5 He broke yet another mark at the South Asian Games in 2016, where he won the gold medal with a first-round throw of 82.23m. The throw not only broke the Games record but also tied the senior national record at the time and overtook the Asian U20 record.
#6 The highest moment of his fledgling career came in July 2016 where he created history at the IAAF World U20 Championships, recording a mammoth throw of 86.48m, that broke the junior world record and made him India’s first-ever world champion in athletics.
#7 Earlier this year, he also became the champion of Asia by winning gold at the Asian Athletics Championships in July. He recorded a throw of 85.23m in his final attempt to clinch top spot.
#8 He then created history once again by becoming just the second Indian athlete after Vikas Gowda to participate in the prestigious Diamond League event. He took part in the Paris leg, where he finished a creditable fifth with a throw of 84.67m.
#9 He was compared to fearsome Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson by his former coach Garry Calvert, who had coached a 16-year-old Johnson back in Australia who was then trying his hand at javelin.
#10 If he finishes on the podium in London, he will become just the second Indian to do so after the legendary Anju Bobby George.