Neeraj Chopra is on a mission. The Indian javelin protege wants to join the ’90m club’ this season.
His 86,47m at the Commonwealth Games were enough to earn him gold, but short of his target.
His next shot will come in the season-opening leg of the Diamond League series in Doha on May 4 where a star-studded field includes Olympic champion Thomas Rohler, world champion Johannes Vetter and Rio silver medallist Julius Yego.
A ringing endorsement
Chopra’s personal best stands at 86.48m, that won him gold at the U-20 worlds in 2016 in Bydgoszcz.
World champion Johannes Vetter is a firm believer the javelin world has seen nothing yet.
“He is really young,” Vetter told the Olympic channel.
“I think he is able to throw between 88 and 90m, this year of course.”
Thank you everyone for your support🥇जय हिंद 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/z9Vva58tx6
— Neeraj Chopra (@Neeraj_chopra1) April 14, 2018
Kenya’s Olympic silver medallist Julius Yego also told the Olympic Channel how impressed he was with the young talent.
“It’s possible (for Chopra to throw 90m). He is a great talent and has a great, bright future.”
Only eighteen athletes have ever thrown over 90m, including six who are still in action: Yego, Vetter, Olympic champion Thomas Rohler, Tero Pitkomaki, Andreas Hoffman, and Asian record holder Chao Tsun Cheng.
However, none of these stars had inched past 80m in their teens. A fact that is not lost on Yego.
“He has the qualities of becoming an elite thrower. He already holds the world junior record and an Asian record. He is way ahead of me,” said Yego.
If Chopra hits 90m, he would be the youngest thrower to go past the javelin gold standard.
— Neeraj Chopra (@Neeraj_chopra1) April 19, 2018
A fresh challenger from a ‘non-javelin’ nation gives his sport a welcome boost of energy, according to Vetter, who competed alongside Chopra earlier in the season in Offenberg.
“Javelin is going more and more all over the world… There are a lot of young guys who are trying this and have good potential in Africa, Asia, and I think it’s developing each year,” Vetter noted.
Chopra is coached by German Uwe Hohn.
“Who couldn’t be surprised about Chopra’s performance?” Yego quipped.
“It’s the proof you need to show that Javelin is growing and spreading wider around the globe. It’s healthy and good for competition,” he added, drawing parallels from his own famous start in the sport.
Yego’s first big break came when he won the African title, followed by his Commonwealth Games gold 2014 and the world title one year later, before he clinched Olympic silver in Rio.
Epic showdown in Doha
Chopra’s breakthrough spices up the meeting in Doha. Much of the focus at the Qatar Sports club could be on Vetter though.
— Doha Diamond League (@dldoha) April 23, 2018
The 24-year-old has had the best start of the year.
Vetter has surpassed the 90m mark already, impressing with his 92.70m at the European Throwing Cup in March in Portugal.
Still one week to go until I’ll continue the last preparations in Portugal 🇵🇹. Afterwards I will start the season in Doha @dohadiamondleague 🇶🇦🔥 #season #Start #soon #vetterwurf #javelin #speerwurf #athlete #roadtoberlin #berlin2018 #berlin #trackandfield #leichtathletik #javelinthrow #fitness #training #trainingcamp #portugal #athletics #motivation #excited #looking #forward #nike #bundeswehr #herrenknecht #ursapharm #picoftheday #instagood #instalike 📷 @stevenvanveen_photographer MuA: Alexandra Dörning
And Vetter wants to even further.
“I think that I am able to throw 95m or more this year.”
He’s also targeting the world record of Czech legend Jan Zelezny, who threw 98.48 in 1996:
“When I was throwing in Lucerne last year, the 94.44 I had no wind there, and I know that when Jan Zelezny threw his world record he had really good wind situation and I am pretty sure that I when I have good conditions like I had in Lucerne, and Zelezny 20 years ago, I can also throw 97 or more.”
2017 Diamond league winner Rohler, whose winning mark of 93.90m from Doha pushed him to third on the world all-time list, is also in the field.
Yego will be looking to getting back on track after a disappointing showing on the Gold Coast.
2018 IAAF Diamond League calendar
4 May – Doha, QAT
12 May – Shanghai, CHN
26 May – Eugene, USA
31 May – Rome, ITA
7 Jun – Oslo, NOR
10 Jun – Stockholm, SWE
30 Jun – Paris, FRA
5 Jul – Lausanne, SUI
13 Jul – Rabat, MAR
20 Jul – Monaco, MON
21-22 Jul – London, GBR
18 Aug – Birmingham, GBR
30 Aug – Zurich, SUI
31 Aug – Brussels, BEL