Neeraj Chopra looks like a hero, now he is the nation’s hero! The 23-year-old from Panipat won independent India her first athletics medal at the Olympics, a first athletics gold and became only the second individual gold medallist at the Games for the nation. His javelin throw of 87.58m will be the stuff of history as it ended India’s lost 121-year wait for a medal in an athletics event. Neeraj is the new poster boy of Indian sports and will be a part of the country’s sporting folklore forever.
Neeraj was always known for his consistency. He had been a superstar in making ever since he broke the world record in the Junior World Championships in 2016 to become India’s first gold medallist in any athletics event. He then won gold medal at his first Commonwealth Games and his first Asian Games. Neeraj had hopes of the nation on his shoulders went he went to Tokyo and he didn’t let anyone down, in fact did more than anyone could have imagined.
If there was one other thing that Neeraj Chopra was known for, it was his beautiful long locks – made him look like a proper hero. Fashionable, stylish and cool, Neeraj’s hairstyle was something that he was known for. And then he came for the qualification round of the men’s javelin throw event in Tokyo with a completely different hairstyle – the long locks were gone.
Neeraj revealed why he decided to chop off his beautiful hair ahead of the Olympics.
“I had long hair since I was young but recently it started troubling me. During a few competitions, I would sweat and it would come down to my eyes. I tried headbands and caps to keep it in place but it would come on my eyes. Then I felt, my hair will grow back and the Olympics were more important,” the golden boy said at the felicitation ceremony that was organised at the Ashoka Hotel for the Tokyo Olympics’ medallists who returned home on Monday.
Neeraj had his boyish smile plastered on his face as he was felicitated and then greeted everyone with a Namaste. He thanked everyone and then, in the most humblest of ways, he flashed his gold medal and said “it’s not just mine but all of India’s.”
Neeraj shared that he had been carrying it everywhere in his pocket since the day he won it. “I haven’t been able to sleep and eat well since that day but then I see this medal and it feels all okay.”
Neeraj gave an insight into his temperament, something that makes him click at the big stage. He said he knew the competition was going to be hard and his world ranking was four but his qualification throw gave him the confidence.
“I had worked hard but I knew the competition was hard, I was fourth. But then the qualification happened and I knew I had it in me and I didn’t want to let it go. I just want to say one shouldn’t be scared of the competitors. I mean there were so many good throwers but we won the gold, just give your 100 per cent.”
He said that the power and speed he put into his throws were felt by him the next day but it was nothing in front of the gold. “I thought the second throw was my personal best but it was a bit less. The next day I felt it all in my shoulder and arms but then I won the medal so it’s all okay.”
Neeraj said that most of the Olympic medallists come from humble backgrounds and have to overcome difficulties but that tough path is what ignites the fire in them to succeed and of course, the support of their families.
“All us medallists have to travel long to train and face hardships but when you have the families’ support, it helps a lot. If there is a problem, like with money or stadium, it ignites that fire in an athletes and we want to overcome all that,” he said.