Neeraj Chopra broke the hegemony of the Europeans in the men’s javelin throw competition with a historic Olympic gold in Tokyo last year. He took a 10-month sabbatical, then returned to serve a timely reminder to the Germans, the Czechs and the Finns of what lies ahead, as he opened his athletics season with a huge throw of 89.30 m at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland in June.
Last week, five competitions after that Finland meet, Neeraj got another historic first when he launched his spear to dizzying heights of 88. 44m at an overcast Letzigrund stadium in Zurich to become the first Indian-ever to win the Diamond League Trophy. It was his third appearance in the Finals. In the absence of double world champion Anderson Peters, who suffered injuries during an attack on a party boat in his home country Grenada, Johannes Vetter and Thomas Rohler – both sidelined by injuries – Neeraj put his competitors in the shade with a memorable performance worthy of an Olympic champion.
His winning throw of 88.44m came in his second attempt after he fouled his opener. His next four attempts read 88m, 86.11m, 87m and 83. 60m. Tokyo silver medallist, Jakub Vadlejch of Czech Republic – who was the only javelin thrower among the six-man finalists to have a 90m-plus throw to his name this season – came second with a best effort of 86. 94m, while reigning European champion, Julian Weber of Germany, finished third with a throw of 83. 73m.
The Diamond League title capped off an incredible season for Neeraj, who also became the first Indian-ever to secure a historic silver at the World athletics championships in Eugene (USA) in July. The former World junior champion has been keeping the Indian tricolour flying high in athletics at major competitions such as the Olympics, the Worlds or Diamond League events, motivating his fellow athletes back home to emulate his achievements.