New Delhi: India’s superstar javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra made a spectacular return to competition after his historic gold at the Tokyo Olympics, a stunning 89.30m throw that shattered his national record and placed him second in a star-studded field at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland, on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old Chopra’s first competitive event after just over 10 months was nothing short of extraordinary, as he nearly reached the coveted 90m, considered the gold standard in the world of javelin throwing.
Chopra’s previous national record was 88.07 meters, which he set in March of last year in Patiala. He had won gold at the Tokyo Olympics on August 7, 2021 with a throw of 87.58 meters.
He opened with an impressive 86.92m before sending the javelin to 89.30m. His next three attempts were fouls, while in his sixth and final throw he totaled 85.85m.
Finland’s 25-year-old Oliver Helander, who has a personal best of 88.02 m and the best of the season of 80.36 m, was the surprise gold winner with a best throw of 89.83 m he produced in his second try.
Chopra’s effort of 89.30m will take him to fifth on the world season leader’s list.
Reigning World Champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, the pre-event favorite with his world-leading monster throw of 93.07m while winning gold in the Doha Diamond League last month, took third with a best effort of 86.60m. first loss after seven wins at trot this season.
2012 Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago placed fourth with a best throw of 84.02 m, followed by Germany’s Julian Weber (84.02 m) and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Jakub Vadlejch (83.91 m), who had won silver in Doha with a throw of 90.88m.
Chopra’s rival and friend Johannes Vetter from Germany, who has a maximum number of throws over 90 meters among the active javelin throwers, was supposed to compete in the Paavo Nurmi Games but had withdrawn.
Chopra had said in recent media interactions that he would not pressure himself with the thought of throwing more than 90 yards and would try to build up gradually to peak at the World Championships July 15-24 in Eugene , USA.
The Paavo Nurmi Games are named after the legendary Finnish middle and long distance runner. It is a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold Series event, one of the most prestigious competitions outside of the Diamond League Meetings.
The competition organizers have given an extra boost to the javelin throwers: anyone who exceeds the Finnish record of 93.09 m wins a Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV. No one won on Tuesday, although Peters said in a more light-hearted tone on Monday that he would go for it.
More than 10,000 people showed up to watch the events.
Chopra will compete in the Kourtane Games in Finland next Saturday, where he is currently based. He will compete in the Stockholm stage of the Diamond League on June 30. He had previously trained in the US and Turkey before moving to Finland last month.
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