Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra on Sunday scripted history yet again as he became the first Indian to win a gold medal in the World Athletics Championships with a best throw of 88.17m in the men’s javelin final.
In another first, three Indians finished in the top eight, with Kishore Jena (84.77m) and DP Manu (84.14m) taking the fifth and sixth spots, respectively. Never before did three Indians finish in the top eight of an event at the World Championships.
The 25-year-old Chopra dominated the competition and achieved his best throw of the day in his second attempt. He had a foul to start with, but then got 88.17m, 86.32m, 84.64m, 87.73 m, and 83.98m.
Pakistan’s reigning Commonwealth Games champion Arshad Nadeem took the silver with his season’s best throw of 87.82m, while Jakub Vadlejch (86.67m) of the Czech Republic got the bronze.
Olympic champion Chopra began with a foul but jumped to the top spot with his second throw, and from thereon, he led the field till the end. Nadeem also maintained his second position from the third round, after which it was 1-2 for the Indo-Pak duo till the end.
Chopra thus beat Nadeen once again, as the Indian also won gold in the 2016 South Asian Games. Since then, the two have competed against each other in more than a dozen events, and Chopra has always returned triumphant.
Chopra has now become only the second Indian—after legendary shooter Abhinav Bindra—to simultaneously hold the Olympics and World Championships titles. Bindra won the World Championships title when he was 23, and the Olympics gold at 25.
Chopra, who had become the first Indian Olympic track and field gold medalist in the Tokyo Games in 2021, had won a silver in the 2022 edition of the World Championships.
Before him, legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George had won a bronze in the 2003 World Championships.
The Indian superstar also became only the third javelin thrower in history to simultaneously hold the Olympics and World Championships titles after the iconic Jan Zelezny of Czech Republic and Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway.
Zelezny clinched Olympic gold in 1992, 1996, and 2000, while winning the World Championship title in 1993, 1995, and 2001. Thorkildsen won gold in the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World Championships.
With his feat on Sunday, Chopra has won every title his sport has to offer. He has won gold in the Asian Games (2018) and Commonwealth Games (2018), besides four individual Diamond League Meeting titles (two each in 2022 and 2023) and the Diamond League champion’s trophy last year.
He also became junior world champion in 2016 and won the Asian Championship title in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Indian men’s 4x400m relay team raised hopes of a historic medal after finishing second overall in the heats with an Asian record time of 2 minutes, 59.51 seconds on Saturday. But, in the final on Sunday, the quartet of Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Amoj Jacob, Muhammed Ajmal Variyathodi and Rajesh Ramesh could do no better than finish a creditable fifth with a time of 2:59.92.
Parul Chaudhary created a national record of 9 minutes, 15.31 seconds while finishing 11th in the women’s 3000 meter steeplechase final. The earlier record was held by Lalita Babar (9:19.76), who had finished eighth in the final of the 2015 World Championships.
Chopra’s gold on the last day of competitions brought cheers to the Indian camp after an underwhelming start. Except for the performances of Chopra, Jena, Manu, Parul Chaudhary, the men’s 4x400m relay team, and Jeswin Aldrin (11th in the men’s long jump final), the World Championships outing was mediocre for the remaining Indians.
Long jumper Murali Sreeshankar and 3000 meter steeplechaser Avinash Sable were tipped to be the best performers after Chopra, but both failed to qualify for the finals in their respective events, much to the disappointment of the Indian camp.
In the 2022 edition, apart from the silver won by Chopra, five other Indians made it to the finals.
In the last edition of the showpiece, Chopra was beaten by Anderson Peters of Grenada for the gold. The Indian had settled for a landmark silver then, with a best throw of 88.13m in the final, to become only the second athlete from the country and the first male track and field athlete to win a medal in the World Championships.
Peters, who had won gold in 2019 as well, could not make it to Sunday’s final after he failed to even touch the 80-meter mark in Friday’s qualification round, which Chopra topped with his single throw of 88.77m.
It was a tense start as Chopra fouled his first throw, but he roared back with 88.17m in his second effort to jump to the top. He had 86.32 meters in his third attempt. Chopra led the field at the end of the first three rounds, when the bottom four out of the 12 competitors were eliminated. By then, Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem had catapulted himself to second spot with a third round throw of 87.82m.
DP Manu also moved up to fifth, while Jena too made the top eight at seventh after three rounds.
Germany’s Julian Weber was third after the first three rounds, but Vadlejch grabbed the bronze medal with his fifth round throw of 86.67m.
There was no change in the top two as Nadeem could not better his third round throw of 87.82m, though he came close to it in the fourth round with 87.15m. He fouled his fifth attempt, and by the time the Pakistani sent his spear to just 81.86m in his sixth and final attempt, the gold was assured for Chopra.
The Indian took the final throw but could come up with only 83.98 m, which, however, was inconsequential.