Neeraj Chopra made history in Tokyo, becoming the first Indian to win a gold medal in athletics at the Olympic Games. The 23-year-old produced a sensational performance in the men’s javelin throw final to demolish the rest of the field. Such was Neeraj Chopra’s dominance in the final that two of his throws were good enough to win the gold. Upon returning to India, Neeraj Chopra, other medallists and athletes received a grand welcome. Addressing the media, a day later, India’s second individual Olympic gold medallist said he found it hard to believe that he had won gold, and thought he was “living a dream”.
It was only when he reached India, and the crazy scenes that followed at the Delhi airport, did Neeraj realise that he had “done something big for the country”.
“It’s an athlete’s dream to win a medal, I just couldn’t believe I won gold. I thought I was living a dream. When I came to India, things were very different. Only then did I realise that yes I have done something big for the country,” Neeraj said on Tuesday at a media interaction, organised by the Athletics Federation of India.
Indian athletes, especially in track and field events, have rarely been considered medal hopefuls but India’s newest Olympic champion said that the buzz among the entire Indian contingent was very different from other competitions.
“The thinking among the Indian athletes was very different this time. No one was satisfied with just participating, everyone wanted to win a medal,” said the Tokyo Games gold medal winner.
In Tokyo, Neeraj Chopra brought his ‘A’ game. He grabbed eyeballs in the qualification round itself, topping the charts with his first throw of 86.65 metres. One throw was all the Indian needed as he marched into the final.
Many thought that Germany’s Johannes Vetter would win the gold despite Neeraj topping the qualification round. The German had breached the 90m-mark for fun earlier in the year, afterall. However, Vetter tanked in the final, clearing the path for Neeraj Chopra winning a historic gold in the Japanese capital.
In the final, Neeraj bettered his qualification mark in his first throw — 87.03m. His second attempt was even better. He threw 87.58m in his next attempt and with others unable to come even close to that mark, the Indian was assured of a gold before even his final throw.