A man who was bullied for being overweight as a child won India’s first track and field Olympic gold medal on Saturday.
The winning throw: Neeraj Chopra, 23, secured the men’s javelin throw final after reaching 87.58 meters (287.34 feet) in his second attempt. The Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch, who reached 86.67 meters (284.35 feet), and Vitezslav Vesely, who reached 85.44 meters (280.31 feet), took home silver and bronze, respectively.
- Chopra started the event at the top after reaching 87.03 meters (285.5 feet) in his first throw. His second attempt kept him in the lead and was succeeded by 76.79 meters (251.94 feet), two foul throws and a final record of 84.24 meters (276.38 feet).
- The 23-year-old rose to prominence after throwing 82.23 meters (269.78 feet) during the 2016 South Asian Games, where he also won gold, ESPN noted. He set high expectations in Tokyo after topping the qualification round with 86.59 meters (284.09 feet) on his first throw.
- Hailing from the state of Haryana in northern India, Chopra started throwing javelin while trying to lose weight. He reportedly weighed 80 kilograms (176 pounds) at the age of 13. “Somehow I ended up in an academy and picked up javelin throw. The love affair started and now I’m here with this medal standing in front of you,” he told reporters, according to CNN.
- Chopra was bullied for his physique. His journey into fitness began in 2011 with the help of an uncle. “Kids at his age started to bully him because he was fat. So I took him to the gym so that he could shed a few kilos,” Bhim Chopra told India Today.
- The javelin thrower suffered a major injury to his right elbow in 2019, which forced him to spend the entire year in recovery. However, he was able to bounce back in time for Tokyo, qualifying in January 2020.
What a way to close out the #TokyoOlympics! 🥇
🇮🇳 Neeraj Chopra made history by becoming India’s first-EVER Olympic gold medalist in track and field. He is also India’s first Olympic track and field medalist since 1900. pic.twitter.com/bqdHZpPUS3
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) August 8, 2021
Pride of his country: Chopra’s feat marks India’s first-ever gold in Olympic track and field as an independent country. This is also India’s second individual gold in Olympic history, following Abhinav Bindra’s victory in the men’s 10-meter (32.8 feet) air rifle event during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
- Norman Pritchard, who was born in India to British parents, won two silver medals in track and field in Paris in 1900. The International Olympic Committee credits these medals to India, but records show that Pritchard actually competed for Great Britain, the Hindustan Times reported.
- Chopra’s gold raised India’s Tokyo 2020 haul to seven medals. The South Asian country placed 48th in the Olympics, its highest ranking in over four decades, according to The Times of India.
- “It feels unbelievable,” Chopra said, according to AP News. “This is our first Olympic medal for a very long time, and in athletics it is the first time we have gold, so it’s a proud moment for me and my country.”
- India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was among the first to congratulate Chopra. “Appreciated his hardwork and tenacity, which have been on full display during #Tokyo2020. He personifies the best of sporting talent and sportsman spirit. Best wishes for his future endeavours,” Modi wrote on Twitter.
- Chopra is a junior officer in the Indian Army with the Rajputana Rifles. With his victory, he is likely to get a promotion, according to The Economic Times. He has also received cash and gift rewards from various authorities and organizations. As of this writing, these rewards amount to at least $2 million, The Straits Times noted.
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