Whenever Neeraj Chopra takes off down the runway with a javelin in hand, there’s an air of certainty that he will secure a medal. His track record was already impressive when he arrived in Budapest for the World Championship final, having clinched nearly every significant medal.
On a Sunday night at the National Athletics Centre, 24-year-old Chopra achieved the one prized medal missing from his collection – the World Championship gold, his second major victory following last year’s silver. Despite not registering his personal best, Chopra’s winning throw reached 88.17 meters. What sets him apart is his exceptional ability to assess the conditions and perform at a level that ensures he secures a medal. This victory added a World Championship gold to complement his Olympic gold.
During the event, Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem emerged as the closest contender to challenge Chopra. Nadeem, known for his physical prowess, had previously claimed the Commonwealth Games gold with a throw exceeding 90 meters. Although he started slowly at 74.80 meters, Nadeem progressively improved to 82.18 meters and then achieved his best at 87.82 meters, securing second place. However, despite the potential for a late surge from Nadeem, it did not materialize. India’s javelin success was further highlighted by Kishore Jena’s fifth-place finish with a throw of 84.77 meters and DP Manu’s sixth place with a throw of 84.14 meters. The bronze was secured by Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch with a throw of 86.67 meters.
Chopra encountered a setback in the first round with a no-mark, yet he rebounded with his trademark composure. Dressed in a white headband to keep his hair away from his eyes, Chopra executed his finest throw of the evening during the second round. As the javelin soared through the air, Chopra turned to face the crowd, raising his arms in a celebration that signified a powerful throw from the Indian athlete. He demonstrated his ability to thrive under pressure, remaining unfazed and consistently delivering his best performances when it mattered most.
Remarkably, nine of Chopra’s top ten throws were achieved after the Summer Games. Among these, his range extended from 89.94 meters as his best to 88.13 meters as his shortest. Throughout his career, Chopra has surpassed 88 meters on ten occasions, exceeded 85 meters 26 times, and reached beyond 82 meters in 37 instances. This consistency has become his hallmark, a trait not always witnessed in Indian athletics, which often sees stars faltering on the global stage. Notably, Chopra has not finished outside the top three in a competition for nearly five years.
Regardless of the weather or minor injuries, Chopra possesses the navigation skills for success. He initiated the year with his fifth-best throw ever, covering 88.67 meters to dominate the Doha Diamond League event. Even while not operating at full capacity during his comeback in the Lausanne Diamond League, Chopra managed an impressive 87.66 meters. In the qualifying round for the Budapest World Championships, his “easy throw” was measured at 88.7 meters, ranking as his fourth-best throw. A key factor in Chopra’s excellence lies in his consistent technique, as explained by his coach Klaus Bartonietz.
Chopra’s athleticism distinguishes him as a versatile thrower. Unlike Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem or Germany’s Johannes Vetter, he doesn’t rely solely on brute power; rather, he possesses flexibility, excels as an all-around athlete, and demonstrates proficiency in sprinting, jumping, and lifting. His talents could have even translated well into decathlon.
Another noteworthy trait is Chopra’s self-belief. As his physio Ishaan Marwaha notes, Chopra activates his “Neeraj Chopra Inside the Stadium” mode when entering competitions. Marwaha attests that the Olympic champion transforms within the stadium, entering a focused zone. Chopra’s exceptional throwing ability has inspired a generation of Indian throwers to aspire to greatness. What once seemed unattainable is now viewed as achievable.
Rohit Yadav, a 22-year-old with a personal best javelin throw of 83.40 meters, is part of the growing cohort of Indian athletes surpassing 80 meters. Having trained alongside Chopra since 2019, Yadav remarks that Chopra’s success is positively influencing him and fellow emerging throwers. Unfortunately, Yadav was unable to compete in the Worlds due to an elbow injury that required surgical intervention.