Returning after a 16-month long injury layoff, star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra achieved the Tokyo Olympics qualification mark (85m) after throwing the spear to an impressive distance of 87.86m at a low-key Athletics Central North East (ACNE) meet in Potchefstroom, South Africa. The throw was his career’s second best, behind the sensational 88.06m achieved during his gold medal winning effort at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games.
This was Neeraj’s first competitive international outing after suffering an elbow injury in his throwing arm in September 2018, which kept him out of the circuit for a year. During his recovery period, Neeraj missed the IAAF World championships, the Diamond League and Asian Championships. He was supposed to make a comeback at the Nationals but was advised more rest by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). The 22-year-old went under the knife at a Mumbai hospital on May 2, 2019 and did his rehabilitation separately at NIS Patiala and JSW’s sports facility in Vijayangar near Bengaluru. He then shifted base in November last year to Potchefstroom to train under coach Klaus Bartonietz.
“It’s been a difficult time over the past year, but I knew I was preparing to come back stronger. This was a major target for me (to qualify for Tokyo) during my rehab and I am happy to have achieved that. I will now get back to my regular training in Potchefstroom with my coach and physio in a few days and continue my training for the Olympics. I will look to compete more in the coming months and am looking forward to more high-quality competition in the Federation Cup and the Diamond League circuit,” Neeraj said.
The javelin event in Potchefstroom had just five competitors, with another Indian, Rohit Yadav, occupying the second spot with a best throw of 77.61m. The other three competitors, all from France, couldn’t even breach the 70m-mark in their designated six attempts. Neeraj breached it in his fourth attempt after 81.76m, 82m and 82.57m. The reigning CWG champion didn’t take the next two throws.