By Mohammad Suaib Khan
New Delhi, Aug 14 (IANS) Exactly a week ago, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra created history after he clinched the gold at the Tokyo Olympics with an attempt of 87.58 metres, becoming only the second Indian after Abhinav Bindra to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics, and the first to bag the yellow metal for the country in a track and field event at the quadrangular games.
The athlete from Khandar village in Haryana’s Panipat district, who is also a Subedar with 4 Rajputana Rifles in the Indian Army, told IANS in an exclusive interview, “I can’t express my feelings in words of the moment when the national anthem was played during the medal ceremony in Tokyo.”
Following his heroics at the Olympics, the star athlete has moved up 14 places to World No. 2 in the latest World Athletics men’s javelin throw rankings, behind Germany’s Johannes Vetter. He was ranked 16th before heading to Tokyo.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: You are the first Indian to win a gold in athletics at the Olympics. How much do you think it will benefit the sport in India?
A: It feels really great to be the first Indian to win a track and field gold at the Olympics. It’s a great beginning. I don’t think I can express my feelings when our national anthem was being played during the medal ceremony. I feel the future of athletics in India looks bright.
Q: Could you briefly tell us about the pressure on you during the final? You looked pretty calm on the ground…
A: The qualifying throw kind of set the tempo for the final. It was effortless and I didn’t feel any fatigue after that, so it boosted my confidence. Though I was looking relaxed (during the final), in reality, a lot was going through my head. But I tried to stay calm and focused, and that’s why I could perform well in the final.
Q: What do you think about your opponent Johannes Vetter’s performance? He has a best of 97.76m, but remained confined to just 82.52 in the final…
A: In javelin throw, luck is one of the biggest factors, and I think it wasn’t Vetter’s day. He wasn’t at his best and was also facing some trouble with the track and his grip. But that doesn’t mean he is not a good thrower. He is still the World No. 1, and can regularly throw beyond 90m. He came very close to breaking the world record… So I reckon that he is still a better thrower than me, just that it wasn’t his day in Tokyo.
Q: Whom would you like to thank for your achievement?
A: I would like to thank everyone across the nation. I am thankful to the SAI, AFI and JSW for their continued support.