Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra on Saturday became only the second Indian to win an individual gold in the Olympics, out-performing the field by quite a distance to clinch the historic medal for the country.
The 23-year-old farmer’s son from Khandra village near Panipat in Haryana produced a second-round throw of 87.58m in the finals to stun the athletics world and end India’s 100-year wait for a track and field medal in the Olympics.
Chopra won the country’s seventh medal and first gold in this Olympics and joined shooter Abhinav Bindra (2008 Beijing Games) as India’s individual gold winners in the showpiece.
With this, the country surpassed the previous best haul of six medals achieved in the 2012 London Games.
Czech Republic throwers Jakub Vadlejch (86.67m) and Vitezslav Vesely (85.44m) took the silver and bronze respectively.
Chopra came into the final as a medal contender after topping the qualification round on Wednesday with a stunning first round throw of 86.59m.
But few would have thought he would bludgeon his way to gold in such a dominant fashion at the grandest stage.
With his fifth career best throw, Chopra has done something which the likes of late Milkha Singh and P T Usha could not do in 1960 and 1984 editions.
No Indian has won a medal in athletics since the country started taking part in the Games in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also showered praise on the javelin thrower and said that Chopra’s achievement will be remembered forever. “History has been scripted at Tokyo! What @Neeraj_chopra1 has achieved today will be remembered forever. The young Neeraj has done exceptionally well. He played with remarkable passion and showed unparalleled grit. Congratulations to him for winning the Gold,” he tweeted.
“Unprecedented win by Neeraj Chopra! Your javelin gold breaks barriers and creates history. You bring home first ever track and field medal to India in your first Olympics. Your feat will inspire our youth. India is elated! Heartiest congratulations!” tweeted President Ram Nath Kovind.