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Neeraj Chopra has won every title the sport has to offer. Now, it’s time for a do-over

U20 World Championships gold. Check.
Asian Championships gold. Check.
Commonwealth Games gold. Check.
Asian Games gold. Check.
Olympic gold. Check.
Diamond League trophy. Check.
World Championships gold. Check.

This is not a wish list of a teenager made right after watching a motivational movie. Or a shopping list of a soon-to-be bride. This is what Neeraj Chopra’s trophy cabinet looks like after his Sunday night triumph in the World Athletics Championships finals in Budapest, Hungary. Throw in a couple of silver medals he won at last year’s World Championships and Asian Junior Championships in 2016, too, and you have a treasure box that’s never been seen in India.

Chopra threw his javelin 88.17m in his second out of six attempts. No one from the 12 strong finals line-up could breach the mark as Chopra became the first Indian ever to win a gold at the World Athletics Championships. The closest was Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem (87.82). When he won silver at the World Championships in Eugene, US, last year, he had said, “Yeah, but it’s not gold.” Well, it is now.

The hallmark of Chopra’s ‘golden’ career has been his ability to gauge the conditions better than his competitors. In every competition there have been players with better personal and season best throws but Chopra has always managed to win on the big day. He had arrived in Budapest having played in just three competitions this year. He had hurt his groin in one of those competitions.

According to Sportstar, Chopra barely threw a javelin in practice to avoid any possibility of hurting that muscle again. “I was thinking a bit about my groin injury. I was being careful, and my speed was not 100%,” he said. He still won.

“Immense pride watching Neeraj Chopra soar to victory at the World Championships in Budapest! Your dedication and hard work are an inspiration to all. Congratulations, World Champion @Neeraj_chopra1 ! India shines brighter with stars like you”

— ABHINAV BINDRA, India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist

Chopra puts that down to his self-belief. “It’s im -portant to be -lieve in oneself. I always believe that I can do well till the last throw… even if others are doing well.” Only one javelin thrower — Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway — has ever completed the triple of an Olympic, Continental and World title.

Chopra has joined him now. But he is a little uncomfortable in accepting the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time) tag. “I will never say this, the greatest of all time. People say that just the World Championships gold is missing. I won it now but I have many things left to do and I will focus on that. I would not like to say this (greatest of all time).

“If you want to say the greatest of all time, it would have to be like Jan Zelezny,” he said. Jan Zelezny is the legendary Czech Republic javelin thrower, who holds the world record of 98.48m since 1996 and won three Olympic and three World Championships gold. He is Chopra’s idol. Chopra has achieved everything that his sport has to offer. And he is just 25 years old. What’s next for him?

“As they say, throwers don’t have a finish line,” he said. “No matter how many medals you win, there will always be the motivation that you can throw further. To win a medal does not mean we have won everything. Many athletes have won the same medal multiple times. I will push myself to win these medals again.”

At the moment, a do-over of all the titles doesn’t seem impossible for the boy from Khandra village in Haryana. “At some level I’ve finished my journey. But I’m starting another one. This time I hope I can enjoy it. When we speak of medals, I have everything. Now I want to see how to enjoy sport and make it casual,” he says.

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