Mumbai, Dec 25:Neeraj Chopra heralded a new era in Indian athletics with his colossal Tokyo Olympics gold that acquired him a super star status in the country which had waited for such spectacular success in track and field events for more than a century.
Son of a farmer, a strapping Neeraj, who turned 24 on Friday, immortalised his name in Indian sports history with his gold-winning throw of 87.58m on August 7, the penultimate day of the showpiece.
It was not even his personal best effort but it did not matter as Chopra became only the second Indian to win an individual gold medal in the Olympics after shooter AbhinavBindra.
Short of top-class competition in the run-up to the Olympics, Chopra was not even a sure-shot medal contender but he out-performed the field by some distance to enter Indian sporting folklore.
Brimming with confidence, hardly showing any nerves, Chopra literally owned the field with his bossy throw, which was listed one of the 10 magical moments of track and field in Tokyo Games by World Athletics.
Who would have thought that a plump kid who took to athletics to lose weight would end up being India’s first track-and-field Olympic gold-medallist. It was India’s first gold in 13 years and second after 1980 Moscow Games. ”It feels unbelievable.
It’s a proud moment for me and my country. This moment will live with me forever,” Chopra said after winning the historic gold. While Chopra’s golden moment is a new beginning in Indian athletics, but the year also witnessed the end of an era with the demise of legendary Milkha Singh — one of independent India’s greatest sporting icons who missed an Olympic 400m bronze by a whisker in the 1960 Rome Games.
Aged 91, the ‘Flying Sikh’ died in Chandigarh, just a couple of months before Chopra’s historic feat.
Chopra dedicated his inspirational achievement to Milkha who had dreamt of seeing an Indian winning an Olympic gold in athletics before his death.