Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra made history on August 7, 2021, by winning India’s first-ever gold medal in athletics at the Tokyo Olympics. With a best throw of 87.58 metres, the 23-year-old took first place in the men’s javelin throw final. Apart from being a gold-capped Olympian, Neeraj was also enlisted as a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and presently designated as Naib Subedar in the Indian Army. He belongs to a family largely involved in the agrarian sector based out of the Khandra village near Panipat in Haryana.
Neeraj won the U-16 national championship at the end of 2012. Two years later, he won the first-ever international medal (silver) at Youth Olympics Qualification in Bangkok. With a throw of 77.33 metres at the Inter-State event in Chennai in 2015, he earned his first medal at a national senior competition and followed it up with a gold at the National Open Championships in Kolkata just a few months after.
However, it was in 2016 when Neeraj Chopra really came into his own. He made history when he won gold in the South Asian Games in Guwahati with a throw of 82.23 metres. Neeraj also clinched gold at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, with a throw of 86.48 metres, making him the first Indian athlete to do so while also breaking a national record.
With a throw of 85.23 metres, Neeraj won gold at the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships. He set a new season best of 86.47 metres in the men’s javelin throw at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, becoming the first Indian to win a Commonwealth Games javelin throw. With a throw of 87.43 metres at the Doha Diamond League in May 2018, he surpassed the national record for the second time.
He made his Asian Games debut in August 2018, representing India, and was also the Indian contingent’s flag-bearer at the Asian Games Parade of Nations. He won gold in the Men’s Javelin Throw on August 27, throwing a distance of 88.06 metres, bettering his own national record.
German coach Uwe Hohn upgraded Neeraj’s throwing technique from 2018 to 2019 in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that had been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Neeraj Chopra scripted history by bagging a gold in the final, throwing 87.58 metres in his second attempt. The effort made him the first Indian Olympian to win a gold medal in athletics.
For his stellar performance at the Asian Games in 2018, he received the Arjuna Award. In 2020, he received the coveted Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) for his consistent sporting achievements. For his performance at the Olympics in 2021, he won the Khel Ratna Award, also known as the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, the highest sporting honour of India.
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