Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra was Monday named in the 68-member Indian athletics team for the South Asian Games to be held in Guwahati from February 5.
Chopra, who hails from Khandra near Panipat in Haryana, had picked up the sport after seeing one of his seniors at his village play.
“I was training at the national camp when I got to know about my selection. All the hard work has paid off for me. It is one of the best moments in my career, and I will certainly aim for giving my best in the tournament,” said Chopra, whose father Satish Kumar is a farmer in his village.
Chopra first hogged limelight when he made a junior national record by throwing the javelin at a distance of 68.4 m in the Junior National Championship at Lucknow in 2012.
The next two years saw Chopra making a U-18 national record in Vijaywada with a throw of 76.50 m, apart from winning gold medals in Senior Open Nationals held at Kolkata and the Federation Cup held at Hyderabad last year.
The athlete also represented India in the 2013 World Youth Championships and 2014 Asia Youth Championships, but his defining moment came in the All India Inter-University Athletics Meet held at Patiala last month. Chopra made a throw of world-leading mark in the junior category of 81.04 m in the qualifiers, before claiming the gold medal in the final with a 79.95-m throw.
“Making national records at the U-16 and U-18 levels made me realise that I can perform well at the senior level, too. I would train in Panchkula and would also meet other athletes and coaches during nationals. The gold medals in Kolkata and Hyderabad last year also came in tough conditions. And reaching the world leading junior mark of 81.04 m has been a motivating force. I will aim for the 83-m qualification mark in the Rio Olympics,” said the DAV College student.
Chopra has trained under Naseem Ahmed at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula and is currently training at the National Institute for Sports in Patiala as part of the national camp.
Naseem believes that Chopra will improve with such exposure. “He has been breaking records at the junior and youth levels. He is eager to improve, and this opportunity to represent India in the South Asian Games will surely bring the best out of him,” said the coach.