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Neeraj Chopra on his Olympic gold, Javelin, The Fame and The Future

Tokyo Olympics 2020 was India’s best at the medal tally. The highlight of all was India’s first gold in athletics when Neeraj Chopra won it in the men’s javelin throw. Since then, he has been everywhere. From news channels and online interviews to TV and reality show stages. Being elevated to that pedestal, he strives to prove that he is much more than just the medal.

Talking about the only other person to have won gold for the country, he says, “When I started competing internationally, I understood about Abhinav Bindraji and realized that to win Olympic gold was quite a unique thing for India. That only one person had won it before.”Before heading off on a vacation to the Maldives, he even visited Bindra who then gifted him a golden retriever puppy named Tokyo.

Talking about the fame of the medal and the javelin, he says that “I’m the same person that I was.” He further adds that for him, people acknowledging his sport is more significant than appreciating him and he is happy that now people across the country know what javelin is, something that wouldn’t have been understood before this. He explains his connection with the sport, “It is a part of me, it is attached to my name—javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is my ‘pehchaan’. I am connected to it.”

A resident of Khandra, he started out at the age of 13 at a stadium in Panipat when an uncle of his insisted on his fitness. Of all the sports at the stadium, it was the javelin and his then coaches who were surprised at the ease of his throw and flexibility. In 2016, at age of 19, the Indian army signed him on its sports quota at the National Institute for Sport in Patiala.

Though it’s off‐season now, 2022 will see three important athletics events ‐ the World Athletic Championships in July, the Commonwealth Games in July‐August, and the Asian Games in September. But right now, he is India’s most sought‐after sports star. He has a quirky ad with Cred, a Vogue cover and endorsement deals with everyone from ed‐tech giant Byju’s to

Tata AIA Life Insurance. Speaking about his work and numerous public appearances, he talks about how one day he has to turn away from the public, he has to refuse. Even if the people feel bad, he will not compromise on his training as his sport is everything for him.

“I’m an athlete, my job is to work. It’s not that my Olympic medal is everything and so I don’t need to do more. People remember those who win multiple medals in Olympics” 

His biggest dream, he says is for Indian boys and girls to have more grounds, coaches, and regular competitions. “If not a ground in every village, at least one close to them, that can be shared by other villages. And with coaches to guide them.” He recalls that when he visits Europe, he sees every age group having multiple competitions a year, in the season which helps the young athletes know their progress and improve. “Otherwise you just train but don’t know the direction you are taking,” says the ever‐energetic Chopra accompanied with his signature grin.

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