Athletics

Neeraj Chopra will start as the favourite in the javelin event

Time for history: Neeraj Chopra, the Asian leader, has the capability to give India a javelin gold.  

With the Asian Games in Jakarta, the Diamond League final in Zurich and the Continental Cup in Ostrava lined up, it will be a very busy next few weeks for Neeraj Chopra.

And everywhere he goes, he will have a chance to make history.

Neeraj, the country’s first under-20 World champion and the first Commonwealth Games javelin gold medallist, will start as the favourite in the Asian Games which begin on August 18.

Though the Indians have been strong in shot put and discus for decades in the continent, no man or woman has ever won a javelin gold at the Asiad.

Now, not only is Neeraj the Asian leader with his 87.43m effort in the Doha Diamond League, the Asian champion is also the continent’s most consistent thrower and owns the five best throws this season.

Though Chao-Tsun Cheng, with last year’s 91.36m throw, has a better personal best than the Indian’s, the Taipei athlete has been inconsistent.

India has won only five golds in athletics in the Commonwealth Games so far, but the Asian Games offer greener pastures as the field is not as strong as the CWG.

The country has amassed over 70 gold medals in the 17 editions of the Asian Games so far with the throws and middle and long distance events contributing a good amount to that number.

Athletics, with a total of 13 medals (two golds, three silvers and eight bronzes), was also the biggest contributor to India’s overall medal tally at the last Asiad at Incheon.

This time too, the signs are very good if the recent impressive performances are anything to go by.

“We are expecting something like six to seven golds, from Neeraj Chopra, Jinson Johnson (800m), Tajinder Pal Singh (shot put) and the three 4x400m relays (men, women and mixed).

“Seema Punia (defending champion in women’s discus) is also capable of winning gold,” said the Athletics Federation of India secretary C.K. Valson. “And we are expecting a total of 16 medals this time,” he added.

Asian champion P.U. Chitra is also on the top of the Asian women’s 1500m list but the fact is our athletes do not get to compete in quality meets before major Games and hence fumble when the going gets tough.

Qatar’s challenge

One can expect a strong challenge from Qatar, which will be hosting the Asian championships and the Worlds next year in Doha in the men’s 4x400m relay, especially since it has two sub-45 runners in Abdalelah Haroun and Abderrahman Samba. It also has a third quartermiler Mohamed Nasir Abbas (PB 45.15s) who is faster than Muhammed Anas, the Indian record holder.

It will be tough for Jinson in the two-lapper with two Qatari runners behind him in the Asian list — Jamal Haraine and Abubaker Abdalla — coming up with strategies to unsettle him.

As for the women’s and mixed 4x400 relays, there are a few complications that the coaches and the Athletics Federation of India will have to sort out in Jakarta.


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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 11:11:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/athletics/neeraj-chopra-will-start-as-the-favourite-in-the-javelin-event/article24609144.ece

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