Olympic and world champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra failed to defend his Diamond League champion’s title, finishing second with a modest effort of 83.80m in the grand finale here.
The 25-year-old Chopra, who clinched his maiden World Championships gold last month, struggled to produce his best in the winner-takes-all Finals of the 13-leg one-day meeting series at the Hayward Field on Saturday night.
He fouled his two attempts and his best effort of the day came in the second throw, with the series reading foul, 83.80m, 81.37m, foul, 80.74 and 80.90m.
This was Chopra’s first below-85m throw of the season. He had qualified for the DL Finals at the third spot. He had won the 2022 DL Finals in Zurich with a throw of 88.44m.
No competitor could touch 85m under 25 degree Celsius temperature and 45 per cent humidity. Other field events held simultaneously showed wide variation in wind speed readings, though they are not known for javelin throw.
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Jakub Vadlejch of Czech Republic became the Diamond League champion for the third time with a best throw of 84.24m which came in his sixth and final attempt. He was leading the six-man field from the beginning following his first round effort of 84.01m.
Vadlejch, who won bronze in Budapest World Championships in August and silver in Tokyo Olympics behind Chopra, had also clinched the DL title in 2017 and 2018.
Oliver Helander of Finland took the third spot with a best throw of 83.74m.
Two-time world champion Anderson Peters’ wretched season continued as he finished last with a throw of 74.71m.
Vadlejch won the DL Trophy and $32,000 while Chopra pocketed $12,000 prize money for finishing second.
Asked about his influence in Indian athletics, Chopra said, “After Olympic gold, they (Indian’s) also believe that we can also win. I was there in Budapest (World Championships), I won gold there, and it will also change something in Indian athletics.”
This was the same venue where Chopra had finished second in the 2022 World Championships.
The Indian, who has a personal best of 89.94m and season’s best of 88.77m, won two individual DL meetings in Doha on May 5 and Lausanne on June 30 before clinching a historic gold in the World Championships last month.
He had become only the third javelin thrower in history to hold both the Olympic and World Championships crowns after winning the world title in Budapest with a throw of 88.17m.
Just a few days after winning the World Championships title, he competed in the Zurich DL leg on August 31 where he finished second behind Vadlejch, who has beaten the Indian in their last two meetings.
Chopra will now head to the Hangzhou Asian Games beginning later this month, where he will defend the gold he had won in 2018 in Indonesia.
“I still have one more competition, Asian Games in China,” Chopra said.
“In big competition, it’s about mindset, we don’t need to prepare ourself. When we enter into the stadium, our mind is ready and body will be ready for the competition.”
On his bonding with his competitors, he said, “I really like to compete with these guys, all are good friends and we’re all competing in a very good way.”