Returning to the field after over a year, India's premier javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra became the third Indian to qualify for Tokyo 2020 in athletics.
The 22-year-old threw 87.86 metres in his fourth attempt at the ACNW League meeting, a pre-season meet held at the Kenneth McArthur Stadium in Potchefstroom, South Africa on Tuesday.
Chopra's throw was well over the Olympic qualifying mark set at 85 metres, and with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) confirming the validity of the competition, he can now step up his preparation for the Olympics in Tokyo.
Five throwers, including three French athletes competed at the javelin event where Neeraj Chopra emerged as the leader in all his four attempts with a distance of 81.63m, 82.00m, 82.57m and 87.86m with the next best at 77.61m recorded by compatriot Rohit Yadav.
Speaking to the Olympic Channel on the achievement, Neeraj Chopra said, "I am elated to have qualified for the Olympics and even happier to finally be back on the field. I made a comeback with a good score after a long injury break," he said.
"It is every athlete's dream to play and win medals. Now that I have qualified for the Olympics, my plan next is to push harder for a medal and also focus on the tournaments I play before the Olympics."
Neeraj Chopra’s fine return
Chopra marked his return to competition after an injury that kept him out of action since the 2018 Asian Games, a meet that saw him win the top prize.
Speaking to the Olympic Channel last month, the Indian had revealed that he was eyeing a return in April when the new season rolls out with the Federation Cup and the Diamond League in Doha, Qatar in April.
“The preparations have been very good so far. I’m targeting April when there will be the Federation Cup and the Diamond League in Doha,” he had said.
“However, I’ll be consulting with my coaches in South Africa if I could take part in some competitions here (in South Africa), just to get the feel of competition. Nothing is confirmed as of now but I’m looking into it. The eventual build-up is for the Diamond League and Federation Cup, where I’m looking for a comeback.”
India's medal hopeful at the Olympics
The injury had warranted a surgery which Chorpa underwent in Mumbai in May last year. Dr Dinshaw Pardiwala, a sports orthopaedics and the go-to man for many Indian athletes, removed bone fragments from his elbow joint.
What followed was a long period of rehabilitation after which he hit the field to work on his throws under German biomechanics expert Klaus Bartonietz earlier this month.
Chopra became India's first world-champion after he bagged gold at the IAAF World U20 Championships in 2016 with a world junior record distance of 86.48 metres.
He is also India's first javelin thrower to win a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games.
Chopra is widely considered as one of India’s medal hopefuls at Tokyo 2020.