Rising athletics star Neeraj Chopra scripted history by smashing the junior world record in javelin throw en route to a gold medal with a stunning effort of 86.48m at the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
After a solid opening round throw of 79.66m, the 18-year-old Haryana lad sent the spear to a stupendous distance of 86.48m in his second round on the penultimate day of competitions last night, nearly two metres beyond earlier world Under-20 record of 84.69m which was in the name of Latvia’s Zigismunds Sirmais.
Chopra, currently studying at DAV College in Chandigarh, in the process became the first ever Indian to hold a world record in athletics (junior and senior). He also broke the existing national senior record of 82.23m in the name of Rajinder Singh.
His achievement was all the more stunning as his effort has put him at the eighth spot in the IAAF’s overall list of season leaders (senior outdoor list) though he could not make it to the Rio Olympics. The entry standard for Rio Olympics men’s javelin was set at 83m and the deadline of July 11 has already passed.
His effort was also better than the gold medal winner in London Olympics (84.58m).
Chopra also became the first Indian track and field athlete to have won a gold in a World Championships.
Rio Olympics-bound Seema Punia had won a gold in women’s discus throw in the 2000 World Under-20 Championships but she was stripped of the medal after testing positive for a banned substance. She later won a bronze in 2002 World Under-20 Championships. Navjeet Kaur Dhillon had also won a bronze in 2004 World Under-20 Championship. Legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George had won a bronze in the senior World Championships in 2003.
Chopra entered the World Under-20 Championships as the season leader after his national record-equalling effort of 82.23m while winning gold in the South Asian Games in Guwahati in February, but he had not surpassed the 80-metre line since then.
“I was hoping to throw far but I never expected to throw over 86 metres and break the world Under-20 record,” Chopra said after his sensational effort.
“My target was to qualify for the Olympics but I did not make it. My other goal was to win at the World Under-20 Championships,” he added.
South Africa’s Johan Grobler opened his account by adding six metres to his lifetime best with 80.59m to claim the silver medal while Grenada picked up their first ever medal in a technical event with Anderson Peters improving his national senior record to 79.65m.