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इंडियन आवाज़     09 Dec 2021 03:34:31      انڈین آواز

THE GOLDEN BOY OF INDIA


Nirendra Dev / Andalib Akhter

August 07, 2021 would be written in golden letters as a new history was created in India’s Athletic panorama with Haryanvi boy Neeraj Chopra fetching Gold medal in Javelin throw at Tokyo Olympics.  


Neeraj Chopra brought Gold for the country after a long and arduous wait  of 13 years. Till 2008 shooter Abhinav Bindra was India’s only individual gold winner in the world’s biggest sports event. 


It is like a fairy tale of an ‘overweight Haryanvi’ lad, until the age of 12 he did not know how a Javelin looks !
Struggles do leave memories. Some could be well known, others not. A new reputation often drives out the old one.The happier ones of course make the ‘sad memories’ hide beneath some carpets.


The story goes that Neeraj Chopra (23) is in all purposeful sense a Javelin thrower by accident, and, as they say, the luck!


Parents were concerned about his overweight. He ran at times but when he took a chance throw with Javelin, some locals said, “iis mein baat hai “.


That was the beginning of spotting a Talent in rural Haryana. A sultry afternoon, and the beginning chapter of the saga was written. 

” The teenager travelled over four hours from his native, Khandra village, near Panipat, to enquire about the process of getting admission at the sports academy that had one of the only two synthetic tracks available in Haryana at the time” recalls his former coach Naseem Ahmad the day in 2011 when a chubby 13-year-old named Neeraj Chopra came to the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex in Panchkula..

“I still remember how Neeraj would watch his seniors training at the nursery,” recalls an emotional Ahmad.


The beginning never knows the end, did they say ? In the case of Neeraj Chopra, prior to August 7, 2021 feat at Tokyo another memorable moment was winning the Gold in Commonwealth in 2018.


After that, he had promised to himself and his well wishers, “I would like to give the same performance in the Olympics of 2020 and get Gold for India”. 


He missed the calendar 2020 certainly, thanks to ‘luck’ yet again and of course the dreaded pandemic. But come 2021, the Tokyo2020 brought the historic day of his life, August 7 (2021) and yes, the Olympic Gold was his.
An ever smiling army personnel (4 Rajputana Rifles), he has certainly made men and women in camouflage proud.
He should be remembering his ‘fauzi dosts’ and ‘seniors’ – who would joke in the canteen and playground — “a soldier never quits…”. That spirit came handy.


He kept his cool in the final, could build up pressure on rivals right from the word go, and finally the milestone. In fact, it was a bad day for German and pre-tournament favourite Johannes Vetter.   Some years back, Neeraj had also said, “You know the struggles, family situations. When your true patience is tested, one had to keep Viswas (faith). Keep pushing yourself, and you will succeed”.


There were other issues too – health and surgery. He had to skip the Asian Championships and spent weeks and months sitting at home watching all the games.


“I should have been there,” he told his father, a hardworking farmer from Panipat in India’s key agrarian state. And then in Doha, as he saw the World Championship and others winning medals with 85-86 metres; he knew – “Hamsey ho payega….I could manage”.


This confidence worked like a spring-bolt. All these, his smiles and body reflexes were visible on ground even as he knew of the pressures of high expectations back home and thousands of enthusiastic Indians virtually across the globe.
In today’s final saga, Neeraj Chopra was the second to throw in the 12-man battle and he got off to a spectacular start with a throw of 87.03 m. 


He then bettered it with 87.58 on his second,  but it came down to 76.79 m on his third. Notable feature of today’s final event was doubly satisfying as the two biggest throws in the final belonged to the boy from Panipat.


Looking back, of course, athletes are not something sought after in Haryana hamlet. “One day I saw some others throwing the javelin, I gave it a shot. This was in 2011. 


Within 10 days, I was throwing 40-45 metres and friends and passers by said I had a natural talent for it,” recalled Neeraj about a year back.


In the village where he grew up, Kabaddi and wrestling had the native flavour and social acceptance.”For long in my life, I did not know, what is a Javelin throw,” he recalled.

His parents had actually sent him to sweat it out in a sports stadium to control his ‘overweight’ and finally he has made them happy and the country proud.

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