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Neeraj Chopra's Explaining Why 'Gol Gappas' are an Exception to His Strict Diet is the Most Desi Thing Ever

Neeraj Chopra sits on the podium after the medal ceremony in Tokyo  (AFP Photo )

Neeraj Chopra sits on the podium after the medal ceremony in Tokyo (AFP Photo )

Gol gappas, or 'pani puri' and 'phuchka' as they're known in different parts of the country have a special place in every Indian's heart. Chopra is no exception.

Neeraj Chopra scripted history on Saturday by becoming the second-ever Indian to win an individual gold in the Olympics, and the only Indian to win a gold medal in Tokyo Olympics 2020. The 23-year-old farmer’s son from Khandra village near Panipat in Haryana produced the second throw of 87.58m in the finals to stun the athletics world and end India’s 100-year wait for a track and field medal in the Olympics. A medal was always expected from the 23-year-old who went into the game as the second favourite after Germany’s Johannes Vetter, who surprisingly failed to qualify for the final round after failing to stay in the top eight. Neeraj had qualified for the final with a throw of 86.65m and topping the Group A. This was Neeraj Chopra’s first appearance at the Olympics but his journey towards clinching an Olympic berth has not been easy, amid a few injury setbacks hindering his goal.

In an interview with News18, Chopra spoke about his diet, and why he didn’t find himself trying ‘sushi’ in Tokyo. “I just could not take a chance with anything new. What if I had an upset stomach? So I just stuck to my regular diet," he told News18.

On any regular event day, Chopra’s diet is anything with low fat. Grilled chicken breast, eggs, fruits, and salad. A recent addition is a salmon. But sushi with its raw seafood goodness isn’t for everyone’s stomach. However, bread and omelette is something that the 23-year-old can have any day of the week. As an athlete who is constantly travelling, Chopra had initially found it tough in terms of finding Indian food and Indian restaurants but over the years he does not have any fixed preferenes and eats whatever he gets. The Desi boy has stayed away from Sushi but hopes his mother in Panipat has his favourite Choorma ready. “It is a simple dish of roti, ghee, and sugar. “I travel so much that I don’t miss home food so much now, but there is nothing like Ghar ka khana."

There is however, one ‘junk food’ which Chopra treats himself to: Gol gappas. In India, your first every memory of gol gappas would have probably been trying to fit the entire dome inside your mouth, at a street-side shop. Your most recent memory of the popular snack would have been telling the seller ‘Aur teekha kar dijiye’ (add more spice) while tears form at the edges of your eyes. Gol gappas, or ‘pani puri’ and ‘phuchka’ as they’re known in different parts of the country have a special place in every Indian’s heart. Chopra is no exception.

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In an old ESPN interview, the Olympic medalist had explained why he loves the street-food so much:

“It’s mostly water and most of your stomach gets filled with water. The papri is quite big but the amount of flour is very little. It’s mostly water that’s going inside you. There is some amount of spice, but that’s another matter. If you are talking about gol gappas, there’s about as much flour as would be in a couple of rotis. Even if you think you are eating a lot, you are mostly filling yourself with water. Of course, I wouldn’t suggest you have them daily but I think it’s ok for an athlete to have a few gol gappas once in a while," he’d said in the interview.

Neeraj made his international debut in 2016, when he won the World U20 Championship in Bydogszcz, Poland, with a world junior record throw of 86.48 metres. He won gold in the 2016 South Asian Games with a throw of 82.23 metres. The fact that he equalled the then-Indian national record added to the significance of this performance.

In 2017 at the Asian Athletic Championships, Neeraj clinched another gold with a throw of 85.23.

When he won gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast with a season-best throw of 86.57, he became the first Indian javelin thrower to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

Only a few months later, in August, Neeraj broke his own record with a throw of 88.06 metres at the Asian Games 2018, where he won gold.

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first published:August 09, 2021, 11:52 IST