Neeraj Chopra celebrates his javelin win at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Neeraj Chopra made history in the javelin by becoming the first Indian to win an Olympic gold in athletics.
But the biggest surprise of the competition was not so much that Chopra won; it was that world leader Johannes Vetter finished down in ninth and didn’t make the cut to compete in the last three rounds.
Not to take anything away from Chopra’s victory, though, as he produced the two best throws of the competition.
He opened with 87.03m to take an early lead, while Germany’s Julian Weber went into second with 85.30m. Vetter, meanwhile, opened with 82.52m – a solid enough mark by anyone’s standards other than his own.
Chopra continued to apply the pressure on the rest of the field, improving to 87.58m in the second round.
The third round brought some of the biggest marks of the competition as 2013 world champion Vitezslav Vesely of the Czech Republic produced his best throw for six years, sending his spear out to 85.44m to move into second place.
In the same round, Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem landed an 84.62m throw, Aliaksei Katkavets of Belarus threw 83.71m and Finland’s Lassi Etelatalo managed 83.28m. Vetter, however, recorded another foul, and after the efforts of all the other finalists, the German was in ninth and would play no further part in the final.
Following a relatively uneventful fourth round, 2017 world silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch produced his best throw for three years to move into the silver medal position with 86.67m, pushing Weber out of the medals. The German tried to respond, but his 85.15m wasn’t quite enough to improve his position.
Neither Weber nor the two Czech throwers improved in the final round, as Chopra’s victory was confirmed. He ended his series with an 84.24m effort before heading off to celebrate his gold medal, shaking his head in disbelief as he made his way off the track.
“This feels awesome,” he said. “My training leading into this competition was good. We were very ready for the Olympics. After the qualifying round, I felt very good.
“I feel a bit bad about Vetter, he’s a great thrower,” added Chopra. “But I also had to focus on my throws. I can’t explain it, it’s an awesome feeling.”
For just the second time in history, 10 men threw beyond 82 metres.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics
|MEN'S JAVELIN MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Neeraj Chopra 🇮🇳 IND||87.58m|
|🥈||Jakub Vadlejch 🇨🇿 CZE||86.67m SB|
|🥉||Vitezslav Vesely 🇨🇿 CZE||85.44m SB|