Stockholm: Buoyed by a strong start to the season, Olympic javelin champion Neeraj Chopra is set to take his first Diamond League medal in his first appearance in four years at the prestigious one-day encounter here on Thursday.
The 24-year-old came second in the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku with a major national record throw of 89.30m before winning his event at Kuortane Games with a creditable effort of 86.60m under treacherous conditions.
Both events in Finland had strong fields, although the Turku lineup had more stars than in Kuortane, where Chopra slipped after an awkward release of his javelin on his third attempt in slippery conditions due to rain. Fortunately, he got up straight away and won the event without any injuries.
This will be Chopra’s first match in a Diamond League match after finishing fourth in Zurich in August 2018 with an effort of 85.73 meters. He has competed in seven Diamond League matches — three in 2017 and four in 2018 — but has yet to win a medal. He took two fourth places, the other was in Doha in May 2018, where he had thrown 87.43 m.
The prestigious one-day meeting in the Swedish capital will be Chopra’s biggest event ahead of the World Championships in Eugene, USA, next month. He will also face the toughest field of the season yet with all three Tokyo Olympic medalists competing.
Germany’s Johannes Vetter, who has the maximum number of 90-plus pitches among the active pitchers, will remain on the sidelines. He is not completely fit nor did he participate in the German nationalities.
After winning gold in Kuortane, where he was previously based, Chopra has moved to Uppsala, less than 100km from Stockholm, and will not compete in any event after the Diamond League and before the World Championships July 15-24.
The Indian superstar defeated two-time reigning world champion Anderson Peters from Grenada this month. Peters has seen a dip in form after winning the Doha Diamond League match with a season-leading throw of 93.07m.
He then had thrown 86.60m at Paavo Nurmi Games for third place and 84.75m at Kuortane Games for another third place.
Peters’ fitness could also be a concern as he failed to complete all of his throws last week at an event in Finland’s Orimattila, with a best throw of 71.94m.
Czech Republic Olympic silver medalist Jakub Vadlejch and compatriot Tokyo Games bronze winner Vitezslav Vesely will also be in action. This is the first time that all medalists from the Olympic Games in Tokyo will compete together this season.
Vadlejch, who finished sixth at Paavo Nurmi Games with a best throw of 83.91m, returns after skipping the Kuortane Games.
The same goes for Germany’s Julian Weber, who returns after finishing fifth at Paavo Nurmi Games with 84.02m.
Finnish Oliver Helander, who surprisingly won gold at the Paavo Nurmi Games with a big throw of 89.83m, will also be seen in action after skipping the Kuortane Games.
Another Indian, Murali Sreeshankar, was set to compete in the long jump, an event not included in the Diamond League program. It is listed as an additional event. But he will not be able to reach the Swedish capital as his passport is being held at the US embassy in New Delhi for visa processing for next month’s World Championships.
He would go up against the gold medalist of the Tokyo Olympics, Tentoglou Miltiadis of Greece, and the silver winner of the World Indoor Championships, Thobias Montler.
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