Neeraj Chopra became India’s first javelin champion at the Commonwealth Games and joined the country’s small band of athletics gold medallists with a mighty throw of 86.47m on Saturday (14).
A farmer’s son from a village outside of Delhi, the 20-year-old said staying relaxed was the key after he won by nearly four metres from Australia’s Hamish Peacock on the Gold Coast.
With his surprise win, Chopra becomes only the third Indian man to win athletics gold at the Commonwealths, after Milkha “Flying Sikh” Singh in 1958 and Vikas Gowda in 2014.
“I don’t remember which throw it was. I tried to get my personal best but I got my season best,” said the junior world champion, after falling just one centimetre short of his best throw yet.
“In my desperation for a personal best, I tried so hard that I tumbled over in my last two attempts,” added Chopra, who is trained by former world record-holder Uwe Hohn.
“I’ve tried to enjoy myself here and not focus on any negatives. You definitely get distracted by that.”
Chopra, who used to dabble in cricket as a child, was one of several Indian successes on the final day of full competition, following Mary Kom’s boxing win and Sanjeev Rajput’s victory in the 50m rifle three positions.
His path to gold was made a little easier after former world champion and Olympic silver medallist Julius Yego of Kenya failed to qualify for final round.
“I’ve been totally relaxed here, I’ve enjoyed myself,” said Chopra, flashing the smile that had a sun-soaked Gold Coast crowd eating out of his hand.
“Most of the time people put too much pressure on themselves before the competition, thinking about food and sleeping and what not.
“One shouldn’t be too serious in life, it’s good to be disciplined but you should not overdo food restrictions,” he added, waxing lyrical on a host of subjects.
“I tried to be natural because I was completely confident in how I’ve prepared myself.
As competition continued on Saturday, India had 21 gold medals to lie third on the overall table, behind hosts Australia and England.