Image Credits: @WA
Neeraj Chopra is currently training in San Diego for the 2022 season, including the world championships, the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games.
Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year will not only help Indian athletics grow but will also activate Indian audiences globally, according to World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.
At Tokyo 2020, a mammoth 87.58m throw won Neeraj Chopra and independent India their first track and field medal at the Olympics. Chopra beat established names like Johannes Vetter and Julian Weber for the gold.
“For Chopra to have done what he did on the biggest of global stages is a fabulous platform, not just for India but broadly for Asia and across the world,” Coe said during a recent media interaction.
“I know too well that there are Indian communities in all our big urban populations around the world. So that (Chopra’s effort) went far and wide,” explained Coe, a double Olympic gold medallist in the 1500m in 1980 and 1984.
“It can actually help engage the Indian communities in the US, Great Britain and large parts of Europe and Africa in wanting to be part of our sport too,” Coe reasoned.
“It is an important moment because for the first time in many years, people in India were talking about track and field,” said Coe
“Chopra is a very strong element in India’s athletics profile. A one-off performance from an athlete, however important it is, is not that powerful if you don’t have a strong federation behind it. And you have that now,” Coe said.
India had never won a medal in athletics at the Olympics. Milkha Singh and PT Usha came close, finishing fourth at their respective events at Rome 1960 and Los Angeles 1984, respectively.
Milkha Singh finished 0.1 seconds off a medal in the 400m race while PT Usha finished closer still, just 0.01 seconds behind a medal in the 400m hurdles.
With his effort, Neeraj Chopra also became the second Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics after rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra at Beijing 2008.
“The first gold medal in Indian athletics is a hugely important moment. And it’s an important moment because for the first time in many years, people in India were talking about track and field,” Coe pointed out.
According to social media giants Twitter, Neeraj Chopra was the second-most tweeted Olympic athlete of 2021 in India after PV Sindhu.
“It is the opportunity to use that performance to broaden the footprints for athletics,” Coe added.
Neeraj Chopra is currently training with coach Dr Klaus Bartonietz in San Diego, USA. The Indian javelin thrower intends to compete in the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England and the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China next year.