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‘Yeh toh pure desh ka gold medal hai’

While Chopra became India’s only second individual Olympic gold medallist with a throw of 87.58 m at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday evening, it was bhangra time for the coach and the trainees.

Written by Nitin Sharma | Panchkula |
Updated: August 8, 2021 5:40:22 am
Neeraj’s coach Naseem Ahmed celebrates at Tau Devi Lal Stadium, in Panchkula, on Saturday. (Photo: Aastha Parmar)

As javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra started his run-up for every single attempt out of the six attempts in the javelin throw final, the trainees and fellow athletes apart from coach Naseem Ahmad at Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, Sector 3, would dance to the dhol beats after the attempt. While Chopra became India’s only second individual Olympic gold medallist with a throw of 87.58 m at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday evening, it was bhangra time for the coach and the trainees. With Chopra having trained at the stadium from 2011 till the early part of 2016, a tearful Ahmad celebrated Chopra’s historic feat with young athletes and trainees carrying Ahmad holding the Indian flag on their shoulders.

“Yeh toh pure desh ka gold medal hai. The boy has made us and the whole country proud. To see him win the gold medal and to see every single trainee here at stadium cheer for Chopra this evening means a lot for all of us. To see his journey from 2011 to becoming the Olympic champion feels special for all of us and we are waiting for the day when Neeraj will come to Panchkula to celebrate and show us the gold medal. Haryana government announcing an athletic centre at Panchkula is also the biggest reward of us and I am sure many more Neerajs will emerge,” said an emotional Ahmad while talking with The Indian Express.

While the trainees and coaches waited with bated breath for the final and would also cheer Chopra’s name whenever other javelin throwers in the final threw lesser than Chopra’s mark, it was Chopra’s second throw of 87.58m which drew the biggest cheers from the 200- odd trainees apart from coach Ahmad. While Chopra would make two foul throws and a last throw of 84.24m, as the commentators declared Chopra as the eventual champion, Ahmad could not control his tears and was quick to distribute laddoos to the trainees and fellow coaches.

“It was a historic day for India and we are happy that we could watch Neeraj sir create history from the same stadium, where he trained. With other throwers struggling in the humid conditions, we knew that Neeraj sir would win the gold medal and cheered for him throughout the final. To see him carry the national flag and to see Naseem sir crying and holding the national flag was an emotional moment for all of us too,” said Nikita Mailk, a young trainee, who had come to watch the final at stadium.

Chopra’s friend and 2014 Asian Para games silver medallist Narender Ranbir, who was one of fellow athletes to start training with Chopra at Panipat and later Panchkula, watched the final from his village near Panipat and was cheering for Chopra. “To see Neeraj winning the gold medal today made us feel that we all have also won the gold medal. Most of us trained in a group and today we were congratulating each of us,” Narender said.

As for cook Kashmiri Lal, who was in-charge of the kitchen at the now defunct sports nursery at the stadium, too watched the final from his village Nalipar near Karnal. “Neeraj always asked double katoris of custard and poori, chana halwa. Gold jeet ke chore ne toh pure desh ka muh meetha karwa dia,” Lal said.

Meanwhile, the staff, including Professor Ravinder Chaudhary and Professor Amanendra Mann, and students, including former student and shooter Anjum Moudgill of DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh, too celebrated Chopra’s achievements as Chopra is a former student of the college. “Neeraj has done the college and the city proud and to see him become Olympic champion made us relive his journey,” said Pawan Sharma, principal of the college.

Chaudhary, who is also the secretary of Athletics Federation of India, lauded Chopra’s achievement. “Neeraj has written his name into the history books of Indian and world athletics and the athletics world is proud of him,” Chaudhary said.

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