Yearender 2021: The Year Of Neeraj Chopra as Indian athletics touches golden sky

Son
of
a
farmer,
a
strapping
Neeraj,
who
turned
24
on
Friday
(December
24),
immortalised
his
name
in
Indian
sports
history
with
his
gold-winning
throw
of
87.58m
on
August
7,
the
penultimate
day
of
the
showpiece
event.

It
was
not
even
his
personal
best
effort
but
it
did
not
matter
as
Chopra
became
only
the
second
Indian
to
win
an
individual
gold
medal
in
the
Olympics
after
shooter
Abhinav
Bindra.

Short
of
top-class
competition
in
the
run-up
to
the
Olympics,
Chopra
was
not
even
a
sure-shot
medal
contender
but
he
out-performed
the
field
by
some
distance
to
enter
Indian
sporting
folklore.

Brimming
with
confidence,
hardly
showing
any
nerves,
Chopra
literally
owned
the
field
with
his
bossy
throw,
which
was
listed
one
of
the
10
magical
moments
of
track
and
field
in
Tokyo
Games
by
World
Athletics.

Who
would
have
thought
that
a
plump
kid
who
took
to
athletics
to
lose
weight
would
end
up
being
India’s
first
track-and-field
Olympic
gold-medallist.

It
was
India’s
first
gold
in
13
years
and
second
after
1980
Moscow
Games.

“It
feels
unbelievable.
It’s
a
proud
moment
for
me
and
my
country.
This
moment
will
live
with
me
forever,”
Chopra
said
after
winning
the
historic
gold.

While
Chopra’s
golden
moment
is
a
new
beginning
in
Indian
athletics,
the
year
also
witnessed
the
end
of
an
era
with
the
demise
of
legendary
Milkha
Singh

one
of
independent
India’s
greatest
sporting
icons
who
missed
an
Olympic
400m
bronze
by
a
whisker
in
the
1960
Rome
Games.

Aged
91,
the
‘Flying
Sikh’ died
in
Chandigarh,
just
a
couple
of
months
before
Chopra’s
historic
feat.

Chopra
dedicated
his
inspirational
achievement
to
Milkha
who
had
dreamt
of
seeing
an
Indian
winning
an
Olympic
gold
in
athletics
before
his
death.

“Milkha
Singh
wanted
to
hear
the
national
anthem
in
a
stadium.
He
is
no
longer
with
us
but
his
dream
has
been
fulfilled,” Chopra
said.

It
was
also
redemption
time
for
Indian
athletics,
mired
into
doping
controversies
for
long.

The
sport
finally
shed
the
tag
to
prove
that
it
can
win
medals
beyond
the
Asian
Games
and
the
Commonwealth
Games.

Discus
thrower
Kamalpreet
Singh
was
also
in
the
limelight
briefly
after
she
finished
second
in
the
qualifying
round.

She
eventually
ended
in
sixth
position
in
the
final.
The
25-year-old
made
rapid
progress
in
recent
years
as
she
improved
more
than
4m
to
set
a
national
record
(65.06m)
in
Patiala
before
the
Olympics.

The
men’s
4x400m
relay
team
shattered
the
Asian
record
but
still
failed
to
make
it
to
the
final,
underlining
how
tough
competition
is
in
the
Olympics.

Avinash
Sable
was
the
other
Indian
who
bettered
his
national
record
in
the
men’s
3000m
steeplechase
but
could
not
make
the
cut
for
the
final
while
the
likes
of
sprinter
Dutee
Chand
disppointed.
Hima
Das
did
not
even
qualify
for
the
Games.

The
sporting
world
thrown
haywire
by
the
COVID-19
pandemic,
no
one
was
certain
about
a
medal
in
the
men’s
javelin
throw
event
except
for
supremely
confident

rather
over
confident
as
it
turned
out
to
be

Johannes
Vetter
of
Germany
who
came
into
the
Olympics
after
having
seven
90m-plus
monstrous
throws.

In
contrast,
Chopra
competed
in
just
three
international
events.

The
two
of
them
were
minor
events
with
local
competitors
in
Europe
and
Vetter
had
famously
claimed
that
it
would
be
tough
for
the
Indian
to
beat
him.

But
Chopra
had
the
last
laugh
as
he
topped
the
qualification
round
easily
while
Vetter
struggled
to
even
make
it
to
the
final
round.

Vetter
was
eliminated
after
three
throws
in
the
finals
while
a
confident
and
calm
Chopra
scooped
the
gold
with
a
second
round
attempt.

Such
was
the
frenzy
in
the
country
in
the
felicitation
events
lined
up
for
him
that
Chopra
had
to
leave
a
one
such
function
midway
due
to
exhaustion.

His
social
media
following
shot
up
to
millions
overnight
and
his
brand
value
skyrocketed.

He
finally
joined
camp
two
months
after
his
Olympics
exploits
and
left
for
the
United
States
for
off-season
training.

The
year
also
saw
Indian
youngsters
doing
well
at
the
World
Junior
Championships
in
Kenya
with
long
jumper
Shaili
Singh,
a
protege
of
Anju
Bobby
George,
and
10,000m
race
walker
Amit
Khatri
winning
a
silver
each.

Belarusian
middle
and
long
distance
coach
Nikolai
Snesarev
died
at
the
NIS
Patiala
hours
before
a
competition
while
another
former
athlete,
1951
Asiad
medallist
and
1952
Olympics
marathoner
Surat
Singh
Mathur
died
of
COVID-19.

Legendary
coach
OM
Nambiar,
who
nurtured
sprint
legend
P
T
Usha,
who
missed
a
bronze
medal
in
100M
sprint
in
the
Los
Angeles
Olympics
by
a
whisker,
into
a
world
class
athlete,
also
passed
away
after
he
was
bestowed
with
Padma
Shree
early
in
the
year.

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