Eugene: Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra qualified for its first World Cup final with a stunning first throw of 88.39m as India witnessed a historic day at the event with two of its javelin throwers making it to the medal round here.
The 24-year-old Indian superstar, the all-time favorite for a medal, opened the Group A qualifying round by sending his javelin to 88.39m for his third best throw of his career, here on Thursday.
Chopra finished second overall behind defending champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who led Group B on the opening lap of 89.91m.
“It was a good start. I will give my 100% in the final. We will see. Every day is different. I’ll just do my best. We don’t know who can throw far on any given day,” Chopra said after his event.
“There is a little bit of zigzag in my run-up. I shook a little, but it was a good throw. There are so many pitchers in good form now. Five-six pitchers have thrown PBs this year. They are all in excellent condition,” he added.
Chopra’s qualifying round lasted a few minutes as he didn’t have to take the remaining two throws after going over the automatic qualifying mark on his first try. A competitor gets three throws in the qualifying round.
Rohit Yadav, another Indian in the fray, also reached the final after finishing sixth in the Group B qualifying round and eleventh overall, with his first round throw of 80.42m.
His second throw was a foul and he managed a modest 77.32m in his last attempt. The 21-year-old Indian had set a season and personal best of 82.54m while winning silver at the National Interstate Championships last month.
Those who cleared the 83.50m or the 12 best performers in two qualifying round groups qualified for the final to be held on Sunday (7:05 am IST).
Chopra, who has a personal best of 89.94m, competed at the 2017 World Championships in London hoping to at least make it to the final, but only managed to fall 82.26m short of the automatic qualifying mark from 83 m.
He had missed the 2019 World Championships in Doha as he was recovering from elbow surgery.
In other events, Eldhose Paul became the first Indian to qualify for the triple jump final at the World Championships with an effort of 16.68 meters. He finished sixth in the Group A qualifying round and twelfth overall to qualify for Sunday’s final (6:50am IST).
Paul, 25, who arrived here just a few days ago due to visa issues, has a season and personal best of 16.99 million set while winning Federation Cup gold in April.
The other two Indians, Praveen Chithravel and Abdulla Aboobacker, were disappointed not to make it to the final after undersized jumps of 16.49m and 16.45m respectively. Chitravel finished eighth in Group A and 17th overall, while Aboobacker finished 10th in Group B and 19th overall.
Those who have completed 17.05m or the 12 best performers over two qualifying round groups will qualify for the final.
Chitravel had the third longest jump ever made by an Indian last month with a stunning 17.18m effort to take gold at the National Inter-State Senior Athletics Championships in Chennai. Aboobacker, who won silver in the Chennai competition, has a season and personal best of 17.19m.
In the men’s javelin throw, Czech silver medalist Jakub Vadlejch of the Tokyo Olympics also qualified for the final with a throw of 85.23 m in the first round. He was Group A’s second automatic qualifier, along with Chopra, and fourth overall.
Chopra has beaten Peters twice this season, while the 24-year-old Grenadian has triumphed against the Indian once – at the Diamond League Meeting in Stockholm on June 30 – in their three World Cup encounters.
World leader Peters has thrown over 90 meters three times, the best being a monster throw of 93.07 meters while winning gold at the first Diamond League Meeting of the year in Doha in May. After winning the gold in Stockholm, he had indicated that he was not completely fit due to a back problem.
German Julian Weber was the fourth athlete to break the automatic qualifying mark, also with his opening throw of 87.28m. He was third overall. Four competitors in the two groups exceeded the automatic qualifying mark.
Pakistani Arshad Nadeem also reached the final after finishing fourth in Group B and ninth overall, with a best throw of 81.71m.
If Chopra wins the final on Sunday, he will become only the third male javelin thrower to follow Olympic success with gold at the World Cup, after Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen (2008-09) and world record holder Jan Zelezny from the Czech Republic in 2000-01 and 1992-93.
Chopra was the first Indian track and field athlete to win Olympic gold last year and is also the reigning champion of the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
He has been in great shape this season and has broken his own national record twice. He was the first to do so during his season opening at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland with an 89.30m throw on June 14.
He improved his national score again at the prestigious Diamond League Meeting in Stockholm on June 30 with an effort of 89.94 m, just 6 cm for 90 m, the gold standard of the javelin world.
In between, he won gold at the Kuortane Games in Finland in a world-class field with a throw of 86.79m.
Chopra’s best performance this season was the 88.07m he produced at the Indian Grand Prix series at Patiala in March 2021.
Keshorn Walcott, the gold winner of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympics, failed to make the final, finishing eighth in Group A and sixteenth overall, with a best throw of 78.87m.
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