It was a typical start from Chopra at the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm – smooth on the runway and an easy release, the big tumble before the scratch line and then the raised hands after watching the javelin land.
Neeraj Chopra’s quest to break the 90-metre mark remained unfulfilled but the 24-year-old Indian javelin throw star came within six centimetres when he broke the national record for the second time in a month with an opening throw of 89.94 metres at the Stockholm Diamond League.
The Olympic Champion finished second to world champion Anderson Peters but apart from the national record, Chopra will also be pleased with the result in Stockholm because it was the first time he had finished in the top three in a Diamond League event. In his season opener at the Paavo Nurmi Games, Chopra had rewritten his own record with 89.30 metres. Chopra’s 89.94 metres was also a meet record before Peters bettered it in the third round with 90.31 metres.
It was a typical start from Chopra at the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm – smooth on the runway and an easy release, the big tumble before the scratch line and then the raised hands after watching the javelin land. Chopra was ahead of the eight-man field in the first two rounds. However, Peters, who has had an up-and-down phase, produced his third 90-metre throw of the season in the third round, which Chopra could not better.
Chopra’s series of throws on Thursday night proved he was in good form with the javelin event at the World Championships in Oregon just three weeks away. After his national-record breaking throw he produced 84.37, 87.46, 84.77, 86.67 and 86.84 metres.
Chopra now has three events under his belt ahead of the World Championships. At Stockholm, he showed no signs of discomfort from a slip on the runway at his previous event – the Kuortane Games. In slippery conditions, Chopra had won the gold in Kuortane with a throw of 86.69. He had winced in pain after the slip but at Stockholm he looked in good shape.
Germany’s Julian Weber finished third with a throw of 89.08 metres. The two other podium finishers at the Tokyo Olympics Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch and Vitezslav Vesely finished fourth and seventh respectively.
Another of Chopra’s challengers, Finland’s Oliver Helander, who had got the better of him at the Paavo Nurmi Games, had only one legal throw of 85.46 metres after which he fouled the next two.
On the eve of his first Diamond League competition in nearly four years, Chopra had said that the World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the Diamond League were his big targets. Chopra is currently fourth in the Diamond League race after earning seven points for his second place finish. He has Monaco and Lausanne line up before the final in Zurich in September.
The athlete with the most points at the end of the Diamond League cycle held at 12 different venues – men’s javelin features in four – and the final at Zurich gets a diamond trophy and $40,000. But above all the Diamond League Champion gets boasting rights of being the most consistent athlete.
Chopra had participated in seven Diamond League events before Stockholm but a top three place had eluded him. He had qualified for the final twice and 7th (83.30m) in 2017 and fourth (85.87m) a year later.
Talking about crossing the 90 metre mark before his season opener in Turku, Chopra had said: “I want to do my best. Overall the competition in the world is improving. But it all depends on the day. How the throwers manage with the kind of weather and conditions is important because it has an effect. My aim is also to achieve it (90 metres) at one of the competitions. I will not leave any stone unturned.”