Neeraj Chopra skewered India’s first-ever Asian Games javelin gold medal on Monday after recently learning of the death of his former coach.
A farmer’s son from a village outside of Delhi, the 20-year-old favourite was never seriously threatened in Jakarta as he won with an Indian record of 88.05 metres to follow up the Commonwealth title he won in Australia earlier this year.
“That wasn’t easy,” Chopra told reporters. “I wanted to break the Asian Games record but it’s still a national one.
“I can still throw further,” added the Olympic hopeful, who used to dabble in cricket as a child.
“But everything has to come together perfectly for a successful throw. That only happens when the technique and speed are perfect — like on my third attempt.”
Chopra revealed his heartache at hearing last week that his former Australian coach Gary Calvert, who led him to a junior world title in 2016, had died.
“He had told me we would meet here at the Asian Games,” said Chopra, who now trains under former world record holder Uwe Hohn.
“I was in Finland when I heard he had died. It was a real shock to me.”
His gold is India’s third Asian Games javelin medal and first since Gurtej Singh’s bronze in 1982. It was also India’s eighth gold medal of the 2018 Asian Games.
Chopra, whose boyish looks and ultra-bright smile have made him something of a sex symbol in India, limbered up with a throw of 83.46 before unleashing his best effort of 88.05 on his third attempt to effectively end the conversation.
China’s Liu Qizhen finished with silver after a personal best of 82.22, with Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem taking bronze with a throw of 80.75.
Taiwan’s Cheng Chao-tsun, who holds the Asian record of 91.36, failed to clear 80 metres as he placed fifth.