5 Lesser-Known Things About Armyman Neeraj Chopra Who Won India’s First Tokyo Olympics Gold

Neeraj Chopra became the first-ever Indian to win an Olympic track and field medal after finishing top in the men’s javelin throw event in Tokyo on Saturday. This was also India’s first gold medal at the latest edition of the Olympic games, and only the second ever in individual sport.   History has been scripted […]

Neeraj Chopra became the first-ever Indian to win an Olympic track and field medal after finishing top in the men’s javelin throw event in Tokyo on Saturday. This was also India’s first gold medal at the latest edition of the Olympic games, and only the second ever in individual sport.

 

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Congratulations were in order from the who’s who of the country after the 23-year-old Chopra created history in Japan. He threw 87.58m to finish top of the pack, ahead of the second and third placed Czech duo and far better than the German favourite Johannes Vetter.

 

Here are five things that most people don’t know about the latest Indian sports star Chopra:

Earned Exception From The Army

Chopra joined the Indian Army as a junior commissioned officer (JCO), holding the post of Naib Subedar, in 2016. The forces, who usually select sportspersons on a non-commissioned rank, made an exception for Chopra due to his potential with the javelin.

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He joined the likes of Milkha Singh and Olympics silver medalist Rajyavardhan Rathore in the list of armymen who brought sports laurels to the country.

 

Humble Background

The selection in the Indian Army was a big relief both personally and professionally. It meant he would be able to support his family financially and continue with his training as well. He is the son of a farmer from the Khandra village of Haryana.

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Back home, Neeraj lives in a joint family of 19 members. According to his family, right before his performance in the early morning, the villagers remained glued to their television sets to watch his performance. “I’m happy with the achievement of my son. He has brought laurels for the country again,” his mother Saroj Bala had said after his achievements in the qualifiers of the event.

 

Overcame Obesity

Being the eldest son of the family, he was often the pampered one, showered with extra rotis and ghee, which augmented his calorie intake in his early teens. Cutting down on those fatty foods, especially deep fried items and sweets, was a challenge for the young Chopra. However, he was determined to get into shape and do well in his newfound sporting endeavour.

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“At the age of 11, I weighed 80 kilos. To get into shape, I visited the Panipat Stadium during vacations. Although I was running to shed weight, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I used to stand at some distance and watch my senior Jaiveer, who has represented Haryana in javelin, practice. One day, at his behest, I tried the javelin. I discovered I could throw it far and the realisation helped me regain my self-esteem,” revealed Chopra in an interview to the Hindustan Times.

 

Golden Boy

One of Chopra’s first-ever domestic competitions was the National Junior Athletics Championship in 2012, where he managed a record throw of 68.46 metres to win the gold medal, paving the way for many more glorious years in the sport, according to the official Olympics stats.

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Panipat’s Shivaji Stadium (where Neeraj Chopra began his training) didn’t have the best of facilities, coaches or tracks. Therefore, he shifted base as a 14-year-old and moved to the Athletics Nursery at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula, which had a synthetic track and was frequented by many national-level javelin throwers.

 

Paved His Own Path

Post joining the Indian Army, Chopra went on to hit new heights. He first won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 before wining the gold in the Asian Games in the same year.

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He was also conferred with the Arjuna Award, the highest sporting honour in the country.

 

Image credits: Twitter/Neeraj Chopra

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