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Who is Neeraj Chopra: India's history-maker in athletics

Neeraj Chopra etched his name in history by becoming the first Indian track and field athlete to clinch a gold medal at Olympics.
By Samrat Chakraborty

History books will remember Neeraj Chopra as the first Indian track and field athlete to clinch a gold medal at the Olympics in Tokyo 2020. His effort also helped him become only the second Indian after Abhinav Bindra to clinch a top podium finish at Olympics.

Chopra, significantly, was only 23 when he created history in Tokyo. His best effort of 87.58m not only helped him rise atop the podium but also fulfilled the dreams of 1.38 billion Indians and the late Milkha Singh who yearned for an athletic medal in Olympics.

Let us know more about the 'golden boy' of India who is the toast of the country right now:

Neeraj Chopra Tokyo 2020 Flag Long Shot
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The chubby kid who found discipline as javelin thrower

Chopra was one of the fittest athletes on the track in Tokyo 2020. But he was not quite so when he first started. It was, in fact, his interest to become a javelin thrower that brought discipline into his life.

He was a chubby kid in 2011, when his family insisted him to join a gymnasium. Chopra would have to travel nearly 20kms away from his village Khandra to visit his gym in Panipat.

It was during this time that he came across athletes practicing at the Shivaji stadium and developed interest for javelin throw. He had, incidentally, tried out a few other disciplines, including running, but he chose to continue with javelin throw once he found out that he is good at it.

Start of a glittering career

He first learnt the art of javelin throw under coach Jaiveer Singh in Panipat. However, in pursuit of excellence, Chopra shifted his base to Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula.

It was, here, that javelin coach Naseem Ahmad would start his training with long-distance running in the morning and followed it up with javelin throw practice later in the day.

Ahmad identified that, unlike other athletes, Chopra was disciplined and serious about his craft and spent his free-time in perfecting it from an early age.

"He’d sit with his notebook and take tips from them (seniors). He would never shy away from training and would always set targets of winning each day’s round with the group," Ahmad told the Indian Express.

Left a mark at Junior World Championship

Chopra had well and truly announced himself in 2016 at IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. It was then that the world took notice of him as he hurled the spear to a distance of 86.48m, setting a junior world record, to take home the gold medal.

It was after this achievement that he joined the Indian Army as a junior commissioned officer and could help his father, a farmer, financially.

Loves gorging on gol gappas and omelettes

Chopra has a good appetite for scrumptious food. He loves gol gappas (an Indian street food) and likes to have bread and omelette as his staple meal. He has also added salmon fish to his diet and occasionally loves to eat churma (crushed roti with sugar and ghee) and kheer (sweetened rice with milk).

"I can cook a lot of dishes but I think what I make best is namkeen chawal (Spicy rice). I think people also call it Vegetable Biryani. I'd like to think I'm pretty good at making it," he told ESPN.

Trained under German biomechanics expert Klaus Bartonietz

Chopra started to train under German biomechanics expert Klaus Bartonietz. He can be credited for the Indian javelin thrower's success at Tokyo 2020 as he developed new dimensions to his throws. He had, incidentally, also helped the 23-year-old book his ticket to Tokyo 2020 at the Athletics Central North East Meeting in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Bartonietz instilled the concept of recognizing 'the body as a bow and the javelin as an arrow' in him. He was also a part of his training stint in Europe ahead of the Games in Tokyo.