Strange and magical night in Tokyo as the Indian thrives and Vetter falls.
Is this a dream? This is simply unbelievable!
For a country that had been waiting for its first-ever Olympic medal in athletics, Neeraj Chopra delivered it with a wonderful bonus. And it’s a gold.
Vetter’s flop show
On a strange and magical night, when Johannes Vetter who began as the favourite with a series of 90m-plus throws this year but ended up as the biggest flop in Tokyo after failing to make it to the top eight after the halfway mark, Neeraj was confidence-personified.
The 23-year-old, the world’s fourth-best thrower this year, opened with an 87.03m throw that nobody could come close to on Saturday night. He raised it to 87.58m, his day’s best, with his next.
From Milkha Singh to P.T. Usha, it has been a story of near-misses in athletics for decades for India which was forced to celebrate fourth-place finishes at the Olympics.
Now the country will have a gold to talk about for ages. The prayers of a 1.4 billion people have been answered in the most unexpected way. It’s also the country’s second individual Olympic gold, after shooter’s Abhinav Bindra’s yellow in 2008.
Very rarely do Indians put up a confident face at the Olympics.
Often looking timid, they wilt under the pressure of the big stage. Neeraj is made of different stuff.
Despite coming to Tokyo with just three international meets under his belt, the Indian looked the most confident javelin thrower tonight; in fact he was exuberant.
And just as the qualification round which he topped, Neeraj’s opening throw forced the others to fight for silver and bronze which Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch (86.67m) and Vitezslav Vesely (85.44) took. And Vetter, who had won his 19 previous competitions, was ninth with 82.52.
Even Indian national javelin coach Uwe Hohn, whose longest throw in history forced the world athletics body to make changes to make it safe for everybody, appeared surprised as he watched Neeraj in action.
Son of a farmer from Khandra village, near Panipet in Haryana, Neeraj took to javelin after watching seniors in action.
He was fascinated by the spear flying into the sky.
And his rise was quick and amazing. A few years ago, the late Gary Calvert had told this correspondent that he had not seen a talent such as Neeraj in nearly 30 years and that he would finish among the greats.
The Australian was the coach when Neeraj won his first title, the under-20 Worlds gold with a junior world record.
That was the first step and he went from strength to strength, winning golds at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2018.
He has now made us dream big.
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