The Humble Great: Neeraj Chopra’s rise from a chubby village kid to Indian sporting pantheon

Neeraj Chopra from a village in Haryana became famous for his success in sports. He was encouraged to participate in sports to lose weight. At the age of 25, he is considered one of India’s top athletes. He won a gold medal in track and field at the Tokyo Olympics, making him the first Indian to achieve this. He was only 23 years old when he became the second person from India to win a gold medal in the Olympics. This was a big achievement for India, as they had always wanted to be successful in sports on the world stage. Before him, the only gold medals India had won in the Olympics were in hockey, which is a team game. With his gold medal in the World Championships, he is now even more popular and respected. He is also the second Indian, after Bindra, to hold both the Olympics and World Championships titles at the same time. Bindra became the World Champion when he was 23 and won an Olympic gold when he was 25. If Chopra stays healthy and fit, he is likely to achieve more success because he is young. He will participate in two Olympic Games and two World Championships before he turns 30 years old. After winning a championship in 2016, his popularity grew. He achieved a gold medal in Tokyo in 2021, which made him famous in Indian sports history. People admired him a lot and his popularity was equal to, if not more than, some famous cricket players. He attended many celebratory events, which made him tired and sick. He gained weight because he missed training due to these events. He became one of the most searched Indian personalities online, even more searched than famous cricket players like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. After winning in Tokyo, Chopra became more valuable to brands and got many top sponsors interested in him. His popularity on Instagram and Twitter also increased. Last year, he became more famous than Usain Bolt as the most talked-about athlete in the world. The president of the Athletics Federation of India said that Chopra’s win has made people think that there are other careers besides cricket in India. There are now many Indian javelin throwers who can throw the spear over 80m. Three Indians, including Chopra, were in the javelin final at the World Championships. August 7, the day Chopra won gold, is now National Javelin Day. Chopra has been consistent since his Tokyo win, throwing over 86m in all his events for the past two years. He hasn’t competed in many competitions this year, only two before the World Championships. However, his performance hasn’t gotten worse. The shortest distance he jumped since winning the Tokyo gold was 86. 69m when he won the Kuortane Games in Finland in June last year. His highest achievement is when he threw a javelin for a distance of 89. 94m, which got him second place at the Stockholm Diamond League in June of last year. In contrast, other competitors like Jakub Vadlejch from the Czech Republic, who won the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, have thrown below 85m multiple times. Vadlejch has been in more than 20 competitions in the last two years, which is more than double the number of competitions Chopra has been in. Julian Weber from Germany has had a similar experience, coming in fourth in Tokyo and in the 2022 World Championships. Anderson Peters from Grenada had a decline in performance after winning gold in the 2022 World Championships. He did not perform well in the qualification round and had to leave the competition early. Chopra may not be as well-spoken as Bindra, but his mindset of not wanting to hurt or disappoint anyone is admirable. He would happily take photos and sign autographs for fans in India and other countries. He is willing to talk to reporters who want to interview him. Even though there are limitations on how much people can talk to him because of the Tokyo Olympics, he is still humble and approachable. Chopra speaks openly and honestly, without using complicated words or hidden meanings. He would openly tell people that certain events do not give out medals. Way before he became successful, Chopra was under a lot of pressure from his big family to lose weight. At the time, he was only 13 and was mischievous, playing around with bee hives and trying to pull buffaloes by their tails. His father wanted to do something to make him behave better. After convincing him for a long time, Chopra’s son finally agreed to start running to lose weight. His uncle took him to Shivaji Stadium in Panipat, which was about 15km away from their village. Chopra wasn’t interested in running and quickly became fascinated with javelin throw after seeing some older students practicing at the stadium. He decided to give it a try and, as they say, the rest is history.

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