Sports

Neeraj Chopra Profile: Know All About India’s Only Track and Field Olympic Champion

Pioneering javelin throw spearhead Neeraj Chopra is a recipient of the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna and Padma Shri awards, and is the face of Indian athletics. In this profile, we chart the life and career trajectory of the reigning Olympic and world champion

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India's ace javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra in action at the Hangzhou Asian Games 2023. Photo: File
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Javelin throw was not a pre-ordained choice for Neeraj Chopra, the now world-famous 26-year-old from Khandra, Haryana. Reigning Olympic and world champion Neeraj was born on December 24, 1997 and started throwing the javelin after observing some track-and-field athletes at the Shivaji Stadium in Panipat. (More Sports News)

Neeraj visited the Panipat Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre, where he practised with Akshay Choudhary from Ghaziabad in the winter of 2010. Observing the teenager's ability to achieve a 40-metre throw without training and impressed by his drive, Akshay became his first coach.

Neeraj learned the basics of the sport from him and a few more experienced athletes who had trained under a javelin coach in Jalandhar. The youngster soon won his first medal, a bronze in the district championships, and then persuaded his family to allow him to live in Panipat while honing his skills.

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Neeraj participated in the World Youth Championships in Ukraine in 2013. At the Youth Olympics Qualification in Bangkok in 2014, he took home his first international medal - a silver.

He threw over 70 metres for the first time in the 2014 senior nationals. With a throw of 81.04 metres in the 2015 all-India inter-university athletics meet, Neeraj smashed the previous world record in the junior category and became the first Indian athlete to do so. He also set a new national record. In addition, he is the first Indian track and field athlete to win the world under-20 championships.

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Neeraj later won a gold medal with a throw of 86.47m at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The same year, he broke his own national record as he clinched gold at the Asian Games with a throw of 88.06 meters. This was India's first gold medal in men’s javelin throw at the Asian Games.

Neeraj made his Olympics debut on August 4, 2021, when he represented India at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo. With a throw of 86.65 meters, he cleared his qualification group to get into the final. The golden boy of Indian athletics made history three days later, on August 7th, when he threw 87.58 meters for his second attempt to win the country’s first Olympics gold in athletics – and its first-ever Olympic medal in athletics since independence.

He did not rest on his laurels post the humongous achievement. With a throw of 88.13 metres on his fourth attempt in the men's javelin throw final at the Oregon World Championships in July 2022, Neeraj earned a historic silver medal. After long jumper Anju Bobby George's bronze in the 2003 World Athletics Championships, this was India's second medal in the event.

Neeraj came up with a huge 89.94m throw at Stockholm Diamond League 2022, breaking his own national record. With a throw of 88.17 meters in August of 2023, he captured the gold medal at the 2023 World Athletics Championships. He later earned his second gold medal at the Asian Games in October 2023, throwing a season-best 88.88 metres in Hanzghou.

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The ambitious athlete now has the Paris Olympic Games 2024 gold medal in sight, and come August, he will have a billion-plus population egging him on to defend his title.

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