Neeraj Chopra and Indian athletics’ new arc

Neeraj Chopra and Indian athletics’ new arc

The Chandrayaan’s successful moon landing, Neeraj Chopra’s Gold medal winning throw and R Pragyanandhaa’s reaching the finals of the FIDE World Cup — last week was indeed a good one for India. Indians all over the world were quite justly proud of these achievements.

ISRO’s accomplishments and India’s success in chess are quite well known. But it is India’s strides in athletics at the global arena in the last two years that has been quietly grabbing the attention of the nation.

Neeraj Chopra is now beyond doubt India’s greatest ever Track and Field athlete. Last week he added a World Athletics Championship Gold medal, held in Budapest, to his Olympic, Commonwealth and Asian Games Gold medal tally. He also won the Diamond League Trophy last year in Zurich and by winning a Silver medal in last year’s World Athletics Championship in Oregon, he became the first Indian since Anju Bobby George to win a medal in the World Athletics Championship.

Javelin delight

What was remarkable was out of the first six Javelin throwers three were from India – Chopra, DP Manu and Kishore Kumar Jena — and one from Pakistan (Nadeem Arshad, who won the Silver medal). So four out of the top six Javelin throwers in this year’s World Athletics Championship in Budapest were from South Asia.

Though Neeraj Chopra’s achievements were on expected lines, the most remarkable success story came from the 4X400 meters relay team — Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Amoj Jacob, Ajmal Variathody, and Rajesh Ramesh — which qualified for the finals for the first time and finished an impressive fifth creating a new record.

Jeswin Aldrin (long jump) and Parul Chaudhary (3,000 meters steeplechase) qualified for the finals of their events, with Parul recording her personal best timing and breaking the national record.

The disappointments were Avinash Sable (3,000 meters steeplechase) and Murali Sreeshankar (long jump) not qualifying for their finals of their events. Aldrin and Sreeshankar have consistently jumped beyond 8 metres this year but unfortunately could not find form in Budapest, this despite Sreeshankar finishing third at the Diamond League in Paris.

The next challenge for Chopra is to breach the 90-metre mark — his best throw so far is 89.94 metres, just shy of 90 metres, at last year’s Stockholm Diamond League.

Credit must be given to the Army Sports Institute in Pune for nurturing talent. The Centre’s Target Olympic Podium scheme (TOPs) and corporates such as JSW have also played a big role here which needs to be commended.

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