Neeraj Chopra at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (© AFP/Getty Images)
Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has enjoyed an outstanding year winning the Commonwealth and Asian Games titles and setting a national record of 88.06m. The 20-year-old offers his thoughts on his javelin journey and why he has such a passion for his discipline.
“My javelin career started when I went to the stadium in the nearby city of Panipat to try and lose some weight. I had grown up in the village of Khandra with my extended family of 17 people and I had played a little sport such as kabaddi and volleyball for fun but back then I was fat (he was 90kg at the age of 12). I was sent to the stadium for fitness and while there I noticed the seniors throwing the javelin. I liked the way it flew through the air and one day I tried it, and it went well.
“I was not a star thrower to begin with but after one-and-a-half years I managed to throw 55 metres with the 700g javelin. Yet it was only in October 2012 when I threw a national under-16 record of 68.46m – did I first realise I had a bright future in javelin.
“I had a few hiccups along the way. I fractured my hand playing basketball and missed four months training but I won selection for the 2013 IAAF World U18 Championships in Ukraine (he finished 19th in qualification).
“My breakthrough performance came at the 2016 World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz. Before that competition I had thrown 82 metres, but that day I achieved a world junior record mark of 86.48m to win gold. It was my first major medal and also the moment I believed I could one day become a professional javelin thrower.
“I enjoy the javelin and that feeling of it flying through the air. Javelin is also very good for overall fitness – and whether it is in sprints or strength work javelin throwers perform well. Training and competing in javelin has also given me a fit and athletic body.
“It is hard to believe that when I was young watching the planes overhead in my village that one day I would be flying all over the world in those planes.
“I like javelin because that is the reason people know me in India. Javelin is now a job for me and I hope to continue competing for my country and making my country proud.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF