Neeraj Chopra

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Neeraj Chopra
Chopra in December 2021
Personal information
Born (1997-12-24) 24 December 1997 (age 26)
Khandra, Haryana, India
EducationDAV College, Chandigarh
Height1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)[1]
Weight86 kg (190 lb)[1]
Military career
Allegiance India
Service/branch Indian Army
Years of service2016–present
Rank Subedar
Service numberJC-471869A[2]
Unit 4 Rajputana Rifles[3]
Awards
Sport
SportTrack and field
EventJavelin throw
Coached by
  • Klaus Bartonietz (2021–)
  • Uwe Hohn (2018–2021)
Achievements and titles
Olympic finalsGold (2020)
World finalsGold (2023) Silver (2022)
Regional finalsGold (2017) Gold (2018) Gold (2022)
Commonwealth finalsGold (2018)
Highest world ranking1 (achieved on 11 May 2023)
Personal bests89.94 m NR (2022)[4]

Neeraj Chopra (born 24 December 1997) is an Indian track and field athlete, who is the reigning Olympic champion and World champion in Men's javelin throw. He is the first Asian athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in javelin and the first Asian to win gold in his event at the World Championship. A Junior Commissioned Officer Subedar (JCO) in the Indian Army, Chopra is the first track and field athlete to win a gold medal for India at the Olympics.[5] He is also the first track and field athlete from India to win at the World Under-20 Championships, where in 2016 he achieved a world U20 record throw of 86.48 m, becoming the first Indian athlete to set a world record.

Chopra participated in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Asian Games, serving as the flag-bearer in the latter and winning gold medals in both. As of 2023, he is one of only two Indians to have won an individual Olympic gold medal (the other being Abhinav Bindra), the youngest-ever Indian Olympic gold medalist in an individual event and the only individual to have won gold on his Olympic debut.[6] His silver medal at the 2022 World Championships made him the second Indian to win a medal at a World Athletics Championships.[7] He subsequently won the first gold for India at the 2023 World Athletics Championships and second gold at 2022 Asian Games.[8][9]

Chopra is the Indian record holder for the javelin throw.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Chopra was born in a Haryanvi Ror family in Khandra, Panipat, Haryana.[10][11] He has two sisters and his family is largely involved in agriculture.[11] He did his schooling from BVN Public School.[12] He graduated from Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College in Chandigarh,[13] and as of 2021, was pursuing a Bachelor of Arts from Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar, Punjab.[14]

Impressed with Chopra's performance at the South Asian Games and his future potential, the Indian Army offered him a direct appointment as a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Rajputana Rifles with the rank of Naib Subedar.[15][a] He accepted the offer and joined the army under sports quota.[16]

Athletics career[edit]

Early training[edit]

After local children teased him about his childhood obesity, Chopra's father enrolled him in a gymnasium at Madlauda; he was later enrolled in a gym in Panipat. While playing at Shivaji stadium in Panipat, he saw some javelin throwers and began participating himself.[17]

Chopra visited the Panipat Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre, where javelin thrower Akshay Choudhary from Ghaziabad and Neeraj practised early talent in the winter of 2010.[18] Observing Chopra's ability to achieve a 40-metre throw without training and impressed by his drive, Choudhary became his first coach.[19] Chopra learned the basics of the sport from Choudhary and a few more experienced athletes who had trained under a javelin coach in Jalandhar.[20] He soon won his first medal, a bronze in the district championships, and then persuaded his family to allow him to live in Panipat while developing his abilities.[20]

Chopra receiving the Arjuna Award from Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, on 25 September 2018.[21]

After training under Choudhary for a year, the 13-year-old Chopra was admitted to the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex in Panchkula. The sports complex was then one of only two facilities in the state of Haryana with a synthetic runway. There, he trained under coach Naseem Ahmad, a running coach who made him train in long-distance running along with the javelin throw. As Panchkula lacked a specialised javelin coach, he and fellow javelin thrower Parminder Singh downloaded videos of the Czech champion Jan Zelezny and attempted to copy his style.[20] While initially at Tau Devi, Chopra typically achieved throws of around 55 metres, but soon increased his range, and in the National Junior Athletics Championships in Lucknow on 27 October 2012, won gold with a new national record throw of 68.40 metres.[22][23]

International beginnings[edit]

In 2013, Neeraj Chopra entered his first international competition, the World Youth Championships in Ukraine.[20] He won his first international medal in 2014, a silver at the Youth Olympics Qualification in Bangkok.[24] He achieved his first throw of over 70 metres at the 2014 senior nationals.[25]

In 2015, Chopra broke the previous world record in the junior category, throwing 81.04 metres in the 2015 All India Inter-University Athletics meet; this was his first throw of over 80 metres.[23]

Chopra finished fifth at the 2015 National Games in Kerala,[26] and received a callback for the national-level training camp as a result,[19] leaving Panchkula in 2016 to train at Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Patiala.[20][27] According to Chopra, his inclusion in the national camp marked a turning point in his career, as he received better facilities, a better quality diet and an improved standard of training from that available at Panchkula. According to him, training with national level javelin throwers boosted his morale.[26] Chopra was also assigned his first dedicated javelin coach, 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Kashinath Naik, but found Naik's training regimen too difficult and resumed training on his own after a month and a half.

2016–2018[edit]

At the 2016 South Asian Games, Chopra achieved a new personal best during the athletics finals in Guwahati on 9 February, winning gold with a throw of 82.23 meters, though falling short of the 83-meter Olympic qualifying mark. He also began training under Australian coach Gary Calvert that month.[20] Chopra won a gold medal in the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland and set a world junior record of 86.48 m, becoming the first Indian athlete to achieve a world record, at the same time setting a new national record.[28] Although his U20 record surpassed that of defending Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott, Chopra failed to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics as the cut-off date had been 11 July, the week before the U20 championships. His preparations for Rio had also been hampered by a back injury sustained in April 2016 during the Federation Cup in New Delhi, which had noticeably affected his performance in competition.[28]

Chopra at the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar

In September 2016, he left the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports to train at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bangalore. He was formally inducted as a JCO in December 2016, and subsequently received extended leave to continue his training.[27]

Chopra won a gold medal in the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.

Chopra won gold in the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships with a throw of 85.23 metres.[29] He then went to London in August for the World Championships, but was eliminated before reaching the finals.[30] On 24 August, Chopra suffered a significant groin injury in the finals of the Zurich Diamond League, sustaining the injury during his third attempted throw, in which he attained a distance of 83.39 meters; owing to the injury, he fouled his fourth attempt and skipped his last two allowed attempts.[30] His first and best throw of 83.80 meters gave him a seventh-place finish.[30] As a result of his injury, he withdrew from competition for the remainder of 2017.[31] After recovering from his injury, which he partly attributed to a heavy competition schedule and the lack of a proper diet and rest, Chopra spent a month at the Joint Services Wing sports institute in Vijayanagar.[31] He then left for Offenburg, Germany in November to train for three months with Werner Daniels, whom he had briefly worked with before the 2017 World Championships. His former coach Calvert had left India in May due to disputes over his contract. During his stay in Offenburg, Chopra focused on strength training and honed his technique with Daniels' guidance, adjusting his stance and improving his range by keeping his hand raised higher during throws.[31]

General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff, congratulating Neeraj Chopra (second from right), gold medallist in javelin throw, and Gaurav Solanki, gold medallist in boxing, for their performance in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

In the men's javelin throw at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he registered a season-best effort of 86.47 metres, becoming the first Indian to win the javelin throw at the Commonwealth Games.[32] In May 2018, he again broke the national record at the Doha Diamond League with a throw of 87.43 metres.[33]

In August 2018, Chopra made his debut at the Asian Games representing India, and was also the flag-bearer for the Indian contingent during the 2018 Asian Games Parade of Nations.[34] On 27 August, he threw a distance of 88.06 m to win gold in the Men's javelin throw at the 2018 Asian Games and bettered his own Indian national record.[35] It was also India's first gold medal in the javelin throw at the Asian Games. Chopra was the only track and field athlete that year to be recommended by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) for the country's highest sports award, the Major Dhyanchand Khel Ratna, but was awarded the Arjuna Award in September 2018.[36] He was further rewarded by the army with an out-of-turn promotion to subedar in November.[37]

In preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, subsequently postponed to 2021, Chopra trained with guidance from his German coach Uwe Hohn, biomechanics expert Klaus Bartonietz and physiotherapist Ishaan Marwaha.[38] During 2018 – 2019, Hohn improved Chopra's throwing technique, which earlier was "wild" according to Hohn.[39]

Injury and recovery[edit]

Chopra missed the 2019 World Championships in Doha due to bone spurs in his right elbow, undergoing surgery in Mumbai on 3 May 2019,[40] the day after the qualifying competitions for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics had begun. After a period of recuperation, involving meditation and rehabilitative training in Patiala and the Inspire Institute of Sport at Vijayanagar, Chopra travelled to South Africa in November 2019 for training under German biomechanics expert Klaus Bartoneitz.[41][42] Previously, he had been coached by Gary Calvert[43] and Werner Daniels.[44] After a 16-month hiatus, Chopra returned to international competition in January 2020 with a winning throw of 87.86 metres in the Athletics Central North West League Meeting in Potchefstroom, South Africa, which as a distance of over 85 meters qualified him for the Tokyo Olympiad.[41]

After South Africa, Chopra travelled to Turkey for training, but was forced to return to India in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[45] Owing to the pandemic and lockdown in India,[45] Chopra spent the next year training at the NIS Patiala.[46] In late 2020, the Athletics Federation of India and the Odisha state government aided the national javelin team by arranging a training camp at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, which Chopra attended from December 2020 through February 2021.[47] On 5 March 2021, Chopra again broke his own national record with a throw of 88.07 m, which ranked him third-best internationally.[48]

Owing to the pandemic, Chopra's visa application to travel to Sweden for training was rejected. After weeks of attempting to secure a visa, which Chopra described as frustrating, he was cleared to travel to Europe with his coach following the intervention of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the Ministry of External Affairs.[46][49] He flew to Paris on 5 June 2021 for a mandatory quarantine period before travelling to Portugal for the Meeting Cidade de Lisboa.[45] He opened his international season of 2021 there with a throw of 83.18 metres, which earned him a gold medal.[50] Chopra remained in Lisbon until 19 June before travelling to Uppsala, Sweden with his coach for further training, which was sanctioned by the Sports Authority of India at a cost of 34.85 lakh (US$44,000).[51]

He went on to compete in the Karlstad Meet in Sweden in June 2022, where he achieved a gold with a sub-par throw of 80.96 m. before winning a bronze in the Kuortane Games in Finland with a throw of 86.79 m.[52][53] The 24-year-old won the gold medal with a throw of 86.69m his first and only legal throw. He attributed his reduced performance in Finland to a tendency to throw higher than he wanted, along with having to use a different javelin as his own was unavailable.[54] Following the Kuortane Games, Chopra travelled to Lucerne to compete in the Spitzen Leichtathletik Luzern but decided to withdraw due to fatigue.[53] He attempted to secure a visa for the United Kingdom to enter the Diamond League at Gateshead on 13 July, but faced difficulties due to the pandemic and instead continued training and honing his technique in Uppsala.[54]

2020 Tokyo Olympics[edit]

On 4 August 2021, Chopra made his debut at the Olympics, representing India in the Japan National Stadium[55] He topped his qualifying group for entry to the final with a throw of 86.65 metres.[56] Chopra won the gold medal in the final on 7 August with a throw of 87.58 m in his second attempt, becoming the first Indian Olympian to win a gold medal in athletics, and the first post-independence Indian Olympic medalist in athletics.[57]

Chopra's medal gave India a final total of seven medals at the game, surpassing the country's previous best performance of six medals earned at the 2012 London Olympics.[58] As a result of his performance in Tokyo, Chopra became the second-ranked athlete internationally in the men's javelin throw.[59] Chopra also became the second Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal after Abhinav Bindra, who won the gold medal in men's 10 m air rifle in the 2008 Summer Olympics.[60] He dedicated his win to sprinters Milkha Singh and P. T. Usha, both former Olympians from India.[61] According to some historians, Chopra is the first Olympic medalist in track and field for India, but this status is disputed. Both the International Olympic Committee and Indian Olympic Association officially recognise Norman Pritchard to have been the first Indian track and field Olympic medalist, having competed at the 1900 Paris Olympics, even though India was under British rule at that time.[62][63][64][65][n 1]

Post Tokyo Olympics[edit]

Chopra at the 2022 BAUHAUS-galan in Stockholm

In June 2022 at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland, Chopra placed second with a new personal best of 89.30m and registered the new national record.[66][67][68] He broke his own national record with a throw of 89.94m for a second place at the Stockholm Diamond League.[69]

In July 2022, Chopra with his throw of 88.13m on fourth attempt in the men's javelin throw final at the Oregon World Championships ensured himself a historic silver medal. This was India's second medal at the World Athletics Championships after long-jumper Anju Bobby George's bronze in 2003.[70] On 26 August, he won first place[71] at the Lausanne Diamond League with a throw of 89.09m and qualified for the Zürich Final.[72] On 8 September, he won the Final with a throw of 88.44m, becoming the first Indian to do so and qualifying for the 2023 World Championships.[73]

In May 2023, Chopra clinched top spot in the Doha Diamond League with a throw of 88.67m.[74] In the same month, he, for the first time, achieved first position in the men's javelin throw rankings issued by World Athletics.[75]

In August 2023, he won the gold medal in 2023 World Athletics Championships with a throw of 88.17m.[8] In October 2023, he won the second gold medal in 2022 Asian Games with a season-best throw of 88.88m.[76]

Achievements[edit]

International competitions[edit]

  • q − qualification round
  • WU20R − world under-20 record
  • NR − national record
Representing  India
Year Competition Venue Position Event Result
2013 World U18 Championships Donetsk, Ukraine 19th (q) Javelin throw (700 g) 66.75 m[77]
2015 Asian Championships Wuhan, China 9th Javelin throw 70.50 m[78]
2016 South Asian Games Guwahati, India 1st place, gold medalist(s) Javelin throw 82.23 m[79][80]
Asian U20 Championships Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 2nd place, silver medalist(s) Javelin throw 77.60 m[81]
World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz, Poland 1st place, gold medalist(s) Javelin throw 86.48 m WU20R[82]
2017 Asian Championships Bhubaneswar, India 1st place, gold medalist(s) Javelin throw 85.23 m[83]
World Championships London, United Kingdom 15th (q) Javelin throw 82.26 m[84]
2018 Commonwealth Games Gold Coast, Australia 1st place, gold medalist(s) Javelin throw 86.47 m[85][86]
Asian Games Jakarta, Indonesia 1st place, gold medalist(s) Javelin throw 88.06 m NR[87]
2021 Olympic Games Tokyo, Japan 1st place, gold medalist(s) Javelin throw 87.58 m[88]
2022 World Championships Eugene, OR, United States 2nd place, silver medalist(s) Javelin throw 88.13 m[89]
2023 World Championships Budapest, Hungary 1st place, gold medalist(s) Javelin throw 88.17 m[8]
Asian Games Hangzhou, China 1st place, gold medalist(s) Javelin throw 88.88 m[90]

Circuit wins and titles[edit]

Other wins[edit]

Seasonal bests by year[edit]

Year Date Performance Place
2013 26 July 69.66 metres Patiala, India
2014 17 August 70.19 meters
2015 31 December 81.04 meters
2016 23 July 86.48 metres WJR WU20R Bydgoszcz, Poland
2017 2 June 85.63 metres Patiala, India
2018 27 August 88.06 metres Jakarta, Indonesia
2020 28 January 87.86 meters South Africa
2021 5 March 88.07 metres Patiala, India
2022 30 June 89.94 metres Stockholm, Sweden
2023 4 October 88.88 metres Hangzhou, China

Awards and recognition[edit]

Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, presenting the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, 2021 to Neeraj Chopra

Ribbon bar[edit]

Param Vishisht Seva Medal Padma Shri Vishisht Seva Medal 75th Independence Anniversary Medal

National awards[edit]

Other[edit]

  • The Times of India TOISA Sportsperson of the Year: 2021[105]
  • Army Sports Institute (ASI) stadium of Pune cantonment renamed "Neeraj Chopra Stadium" by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 27 August 2021.[106]
  • Switzerland Tourism appointed Neeraj Chopra as its Friendship Ambassador.[107]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Normally, the Indian Army does not appoint fresh recruits to this position, but because of his performance, they did.
  1. ^ Pritchard won the first Olympic track and field medal in the 1900 Paris Olympics, competing in the 200 meter sprint and the 200 meter hurdles events. Thus, Chopra became the second Olympic track and field medalist for India. Pritchard technically competed for Britain as British India did not officially gain representation within the Olympic Movement until 1920; however, the International Olympic Committee and the Athletics Federation of India officially regard Pritchard as having competed for India and credit his medals accordingly. Olympics historian and journalist Gulu Ezekiel further observes that though Pritchard was an Englishman of English parentage, he was born in Calcutta and developed his abilities as a champion sprinter and hurdler while representing the Bengal Presidency in events within India.[62]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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