Gold Coast: Neeraj Chopra on Saturday became the first Indian javelin thrower to claim a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, pulling off a season’s best effort of 86.47m in the final here. The 20-year-old former junior world champion had made the final after achieving the qualifying mark in his very first throw and was leaps ahead of the field with his very first throw.
“It is a very important medal for me, I wanted to touch my personal best but I missed it by a centimetre. In my desperation for that, I tried so hard that I tumbled over in my last two attempts. But I am very happy and I have lot of competitions this year to achieve the personal best,” Neeraj said after his triumph.
Neeraj was the favourite for gold here after his 85.94m throw during the Federation Cup National Championships last month and he achieved India’s first gold in athletics in this edition of the Games.
The CWG field had been depleted after Olympics and world silver-medallist Julius Yego of Kenya failed to qualify for final round, while 2012 Olympic champion and Rio Games bronze-winner Keshorn Walcott opted out of the Games.
Neeraj thus became only the second javelin thrower to claim a CWG medal — the first being Kashinath Naik, who fetched a bronze in the 2010 Delhi Games.
“The competition was very good here, the world champion was here but he could not qualify. It was still quite tough but I was very sure of myself,” Neeraj said.
Overall, Neeraj’s medal is only the fifth track-and-field gold for India in the quadrennial event — the other four being sprinter Milkha Singh (1958), discus thrower Krishna Poonia (2010), the women’s 4x400m relay quartet of Manjeet Kaur, Sini Jose, Ashwini Akkunji and Mandeep Kaur(2010) and shot-putter Vikas Gowda (2014).
Neeraj, a gold-medallist at the Asian Championships, simply destroyed the competition with his very first attempt which was 85.50m. None in the field could surpass that till the very end and it was left to Neeraj to up the ante, which he did with a season’s best 86.47m in his fourth attempt. He consistently crossed the 82m mark in the final, fouling two attempts in all.
“It makes a lot of difference when you manage to get a first throw like that. It builds pressure on others. As for me, I was not under any pressure or nerves, I was well-prepared,” he said. The fun-loving youngster laughed when asked how he would celebrate the momentous occasion but did speak about the importance of letting one’s hair down once in a while to escape stress.
“One shouldn’t be too serious in life, it’s good to be disciplined but you should not overdo food restrictions. A bit of enjoyment always works. One should have faith that their training is good enough. It’s not healthy to just lock yourself in a room before a big competition,” he advised.