Neeraj Chopra marked a memorable comeback to competitive throwing, registering a best throw of 87.86m – the second best of his career– to win the ACNW League Meeting in Potchefstroom, South Africa on Tuesday evening.
With the achievement, the reigning Commonwealth and Asian Games Champion also became the first Indian javelin thrower to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo this July-August. He has exceeded the World Athletics’ Olympic qualifying standard of 85 metre by good 2.86 metre.
Since September 2018 this was the first competitive meet for Chopra , who missed out the entire 2019 season due to a surgery on his throwing arm. After undergoing an elbow arthroscopy surgery on May 2, 2019, Chopra had undergone rehabilitation at National Institute of Sport, Patiala, and the Inspire Institute of Sport, Vijayangar, before shifting base to Potchefstroom, South Africa to train under coach Klaus Bartonietz in November last year.
“I am extremely pleased with the performance. Going into the competition, I did not try to put much pressure on myself and was keen to test myself out as it was my first meet in a long time. The warm-up throws went very well, and even though my first three throws were around the 81-82m mark, I felt there were some flaws I could work on,” Chopra said from Potchefstroom after the meet.
“This was a major target for me during my rehab and I’m happy to have qualified. I will now get back to my regular training here in Potchefstroom with my coach and physio in a few days’ time and continue my training towards the Olympics. I will look to compete more in the coming months and am looking forward to more high quality competition at the Federation Cup and the Diamond League circuit.
“It’s been a difficult time over the past year, but I knew I was preparing myself to come back stronger. I am extremely grateful for all the support and guidance I’ve received from all quarters and I am committed to come back stronger and make the country proud.”
At the meet held on Tuesday evening at the McArthur Stadium, Chopra registered throws of 81.63 m, 82.00 m and 82.57 m in his first three attempts, before unleashing the throw that earned him his qualification in the 4th round. His compatriot Rohit Yadav, who is training for the U20 World Championships later this year, also had a successful outing with a best throw of 77.61m.