Neeraj Chopra in the javelin at the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016 (© Getty Images)
There are many ways to respond to a challenge. Producing a world age-group record is perhaps one of the better methods.
Pre-event favourite Neeraj Chopra took an early lead in the javelin, throwing 79.66m with the very first throw of the competition. But it was bettered moments later by South Africa’s Johan Grobler, who added six metres to his best with an almighty throw of 80.59m.
With Grenada’s Anderson Peters opening with a senior national record of 79.65m, Chopra knew he had a fight on his hands. Memories were also still fresh of his recent surprise defeat at the Asian Junior Championships.
Tonight he made sure there would be no repeat of that, though.
Chopra took to the runway for his second attempt and launched the spear way behind the furthermost white curved line on the infield, which marked out 75 metres. It was clear that it was beyond 80 metres, but there was no telling how far. After a matter of seconds – which would have felt a lot longer for Chopra – the figures flashed up on the scoreboard: 86.48m.
Those numbers were accompanied on the scoreboard with the words: “world U20 record”.
His mark added nearly two metres to the previous record of 84.69m, set in 2011 by recently crowned European champion Zigismunds Sirmais of Latvia. It also smashed his own senior Indian record.
Peters improved marginally in the second round to 79.65m to consolidate his third-place position, but there were no further developments from then on.
Chopra backed up his big throw with 78.36m in the third round before fouling his final attempt. Grobler ended his series with 75.16m, while Peters produced two more throws beyond 75 metres. Turkey’s Emin Oncel was fourth with 75.20m.
Chopra, though, was untouchable, winning India’s first ever world U20 title.
“I was hoping to improve, but I never expected to throw over 86 metres and break the world U20 record,” said Chopra. “My ultimate target this year was to qualify for the Olympics, but I didn’t make it. My other goal was to win at the World U20 Championships.”
With two men beyond 80 metres and all three medallists beyond 79m, it was the best quality podium finish ever in this discipline at the IAAF World U20 Championships.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
*Subject to the usual ratification procedures