Neeraj Chopra has gained unlikely stardom in India. If he wins another Olympic gold, he will be ‘treated like God’

Neeraj Chopra has gained unlikely stardom in India. If he wins another Olympic gold, he will be ‘treated like God’ - World - News

Neeraj Chopra: The Indian Javelin Throwing Phenom and His Unlikely Connection to Cricket

Neeraj Chopra, the Indian javelin thrower, can’t help but draw parallels between his athletic discipline and India’s beloved pastime of cricket. “In India, it feels natural to have a fast arm,” Chopra shared with News Finder Sport. “Javelin throwing requires a quick arm, which I believe many cricket players possess.”

India is home to over 125 million cricket fans as per the Ormax Media report in 2022. However, Chopra’s remarkable ability to hurl a javelin close to 300 feet has earned him an impressive following in his own right. His illustrious career includes an Olympic gold medal from Tokyo (the first for any Asian athlete in the javelin), and a world championship title in Budapest, making him the first Indian to win a world title in track and field.

His popularity has skyrocketed, with many Indians watching his competitions late into the night despite athletics being an unconventional favorite among sports. August 7 is now celebrated as National Javelin Day in India, marking Chopra’s historic Olympic gold medal win. Prior to him, India had minimal track and field success, with most of their Olympic medals coming from field hockey and wrestling.

“There is genuine excitement each time I compete,” said Chopra. “Ask anyone in India about their favorite sportsperson, and they’ll unanimously name me – despite the fact that athletics is not a popular sport.”

Growing up in rural Khandra, Haryana, Chopra was initially a cricket player and volleyball enthusiast. His interest in javelin throwing began at an athletics stadium in Panipat when he witnessed the javelin’s elegant flight through the sky. Inspired, he tried his hand at javelin throwing with a borrowed steel javelin and spent countless hours perfecting his technique, eventually catching the attention of international coaches.

Chopra’s career took off after he moved to a sports academy in Panchkula. Despite the lack of formal coaching or resources, his raw talent and dedication propelled him forward. With limited access to information, Chopra relied on YouTube videos to learn and refine his technique before making his international debut. Today, his accomplishments include two Asian Games titles, a Commonwealth Games gold medal, and Olympic and world championship golds.

Preparing for the Paris Olympics, Chopra is more focused on staying healthy than winning another gold medal. “I’ll do my best and trust the process,” he said.

His ability to perform under pressure, with a large fanbase eagerly anticipating his success, is a common theme in Chopra’s career. “This isn’t pressure for me,” he added. “I take it positively and am always encouraged by the support.”

Apart from breaking the 90-meter (295 feet) mark, which only 24 men in history have achieved, Chopra has little left to prove at home. Already a national hero, his influence extends beyond sports, with endorsements for education, sanitation, and selling products on television.

“He is a moving billboard,” said veteran journalist Norris Pritam. “If he wins another gold medal at the Olympics, he will be treated like a god.”

Chopra remains humbled by his accomplishments and the support of his fans: “When people meet me, they always say their children will start javelin or athletics. It’s a good feeling.”