The anticipation is building around star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s quest for a medal at the World Championships in Eugene next month. If the first Indian track and field athlete to win gold at the Olympics also becomes World Champion, it will mark the pinnacle of his career and the first time any male has held both the titles simultaneously since Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen way back in 2009. Thorkildsen followed in the footsteps of the legendary Czech Jan Železný, a three time Olympic champion who completed the double when he won gold at the Worlds in 2001 after winning the Summer Games title a year earlier.
Chopra has ambitious plans for this year and it includes a tilt at Diamond League glory, a series of one-day events that last just two hours each introduced in 2010 to promote athletics across the world.
The athlete with the most points at the end of the Diamond League cycle held at 12 different venues – men’s javelin features in four – and the final at Zurich gets a diamond trophy and $40,000. But above all the Diamond League Champion gets boasting rights of being the most consistent athlete.Within days of the curtain coming down on the Worlds, Chopra, 24, will be back on the runway in Birmingham to defend his Commonwealth Games gold. His schedule is packed as three days after the end of the CWG, he is to be at Monaco for the Diamond League event.
The principality on the Mediterranean coast is an important stopover for Chopra on the Diamond League calendar and pulling out will diminish his chance of being a Diamond League Champion. Chopra has said he will decide on travelling to Monaco depending on how his body feels in Birmingham. That call is almost a month away.
On Thursday night, the Diamond League in Stockholm is where Chopra’s quest to make the cut for this year’s final in Zurich begins. At the Olympic Stadium in the Swedish capital he also gets an opportunity to tick a box. He has never won a Diamond League event in seven previous attempts. He had qualified for the final twice and 7th (83.30 metres) in 2017 and fourth (85.87m) a year later.
After Stockholm, Chopra has lined up Monaco (August 10) and Lausanne (August 26) as his next two Diamond League stops. Stockholm presents an interesting battle as it will be the first time the current Olympic medalists – Chopra and Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch (silver) and Vítězslav Vesely (bronze) go head to head at the same competition since the Summer Games in Tokyo.
Apart from the two Czech’s, Chopra will also have to contend with Grenada’s Anderson Peters, the defending world champion. Peters has a season best and personal best of 93.07 metres but finished behind Chopra at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku and Kuortane Games. There will also be the towering presence of Finland’s Oliver Helander. The six-foot four-inch tall 25-year-old beat Chopra to gold at Turku and is a dark horse at the World Championship as his personal best of 89.93 metres makes him a medal contender. Chopra’s good friend and the biggest star before the Tokyo Olympics Johannes Vetter is not in the fray. Vetter has participated in only one event this season in Offenburg in May and the big question is around his form going into the World Championships.
Chopra has been throwing smoothly in the two competitions he has entered in so far. At Turku, he won a silver and set a new national record of 89.30 metres. Four days later in slippery conditions at Kuortane he won the gold with 86.69 metres. Chopra had slipped awkwardly but avoided injury.
“Tough conditions with the weather but happy to get my first win of the season here at Kuortane. I’m feeling good and looking forward to kicking off my Diamond League season at @BAUHAUSGALAN on the 30th,” Chopra had tweeted after Kuortane.
A maiden victory in his first Diamond League event in four years will be a perfect prep up for the World Athletics Championships.
Chopra at Diamond League Final:
Venue Distance Pos. Date
Monaco 78.92m 7th Jul 2017
Paris 84.67m 5th Jul 2017
Zurich* 83.80m 7th Aug 2017
Doha 87.43m 4th May 2018
Eugene 80.81m 6th May 2018
Rabat 83.32m 5th July 2018
Zurich* 85.73m 4th Aug 2018
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