After winning Tokyo Olympics gold, Javelin is gaining popularity, says Neeraj Chopra

After winning Tokyo Olympics gold, Javelin is gaining popularity, says Neeraj Chopra

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Abhinav Bindra, an Indian shooter, and Neeraj Chopra, a track and field athlete, are unquestionably role models in a nation obsessed with cricket. The duo is the only set of Indians who have individually won gold medals in the 75 years since India gained its independence in 1947.

The two Indian heroes spoke at a conference held by the International Olympic Committee on Saturday at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne about the effect their gold medals had on the Indian athletic landscape. Chopra noted the recent accomplishments of Indian javelin throwers at junior and senior events worldwide, saying, “I think we don’t need another decade to know what’s changed.”

Neeraj Chopra was the only Indian javelin thrower to extend his distance above 80 metres before 2021. All under the age of 23, Sahil Silwal (personal best 80.65 metres), Rohit Yadav (PB 81.83 metres), DP Manu (PB 82.43 metres), and Yashvir Singh (PB 82.13 metres) have now joined the Tokyo Olympic champion in this 80-meter-plus club during the past 18 months.

Neeraj Chopra said regarding India's improvement in the javelin throw contests both inside and outside of India, “For the first time, there were four javelin throwers who crossed the 80m mark in around a year.”

“Two Indian male javelin throwers made the cut for the world championships final and Annu Rani won India’s first medal, a bronze, in the women’s javelin throw competition at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham. So we are definitely seeing a change,” Neeraj Chopra pointed out.

Numerous young Indians were motivated to start playing sports after Neeraj Chopra won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Chopra was also the Indian sportsperson with the most Google searches last year.

Neeraj Chopra advised young people to find a strong coach or mentor early in their careers if they want to follow his success. “Javelin throw is a very technical sport so the base upfront has to be solid. I have seen many kids get used to a wrong technique which becomes difficult to change later.” In terms of the mental component, Chopra stated that although though the Olympics are conducted every four years, an athlete must practise as if it were an annual event.

“We are not only affected by the on-field performances but can also have an off day in training which can make us feel demotivated. It is a backstory only athletes are aware of. So it becomes very important to keep the spirits high and look forward to the next day.”

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) chose to observe August 7 as National Javelin Day after Neeraj Chopra won the Olympic gold medal on that date in 2021. On August 7 of this year, javelin events were held in as many as 32 Indian states and Union Territories units associated with the national federation.

Abhinav Bindra, a shooter who in 2008 won India's first gold medal at the Olympics, stated that the Olympic gold medals not only encourage the Indian sports eco-system to work better at the grassroots but also at the administrative level.

“The interest level in sports (after Chopra’s Olympic gold) is now immense. So many young kids are getting inspired,” said Bindra.

When he won the 10m air rifle competition at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Abhinav Bindra claimed he noticed the same amount of enthusiasm all around the nation.

“It was similar when I won the gold in 2008. When we used to have shooting nationals before 2008, around 200 aspirants used to show up. Today around 10,000 take part. So I feel it would be the same process in different disciplines of track and field.”

Indian shooters won two medals in London 2012—a bronze for Gagan Narang and a silver for Vijay Kumar—but they haven't been able to accomplish it since. However, Indian shooters have won numerous shooting World Cups and championship competitions, as well as the top rankings.

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