Neeraj Chopra dazzles with gold at Paavo Nurmi Games


PTI, Jun 19, 2024, 7:56 AM IST

Neeraj Chopra (credit: PTI / File)

Turku (Finland): India’s Olympic and world champion javelin throw star Neeraj Chopra claimed his maiden gold medal at the Paavo Nurmi Games here on Tuesday, dominating a stellar field on his return to competitive action following a month-long break.

Chopra, who claimed the silver here in 2022, produced the winning effort of 85.97m in his third attempt to lead the field for a major part of the competition.

The Indian proved himself heads and shoulders above much-hyped 19-year-old German prodigy Max Dehning, who came here as the youngest member of the 90m club but finished a disappointing seventh in the eight-strong field.

Dehning could not even breach the 80m mark on Tuesday with 79.84m being his best effort.

Home favourite Toni Keranen claimed the silver medal with a personal best throw of 84.19m, while his compatriot and 2022 gold-medallist Oliver Helander took the third spot with 83.96m.

Chopra started with 83.62m, which could not be topped by any of his competitors in the first round of throws.

Helander took the top spot with a second-round throw of 83.96m but Chopra soon toppled him with 85.97m, which remained unmatched for the rest of the competition.

The 26-year-old knew that his effort was special the moment he sent the spear flying as he raised his hands in celebration and let out a trademark roar that has come to be an indicator of his solid performances.

With Tuesday’s power-packed show, Chopra also staked his claim as a gold favourite at the Paris Olympics next month.

However, the distance covered was nowhere close to the 89.30m with which he managed to win a silver at this event two years ago. Chopra had improved that mark to 89.94m at the Stockholm leg of the Diamond League in the same year.

Among others, two-time world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada finished fourth with 82.58m, while 2012 Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago was further down at sixth after managing to clear a season’s best of 81.93m.

Chopra had withdrawn from last month’s Ostrava Golden Spike as a precautionary measure after he “felt something” in his adductor (a group of muscles located on inner thighs).

He began his season at the Doha Diamond League in May, where he finished second with his final throw of 88.36m, the ninth best mark of his career.

Chopra also participated at the National Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar, where he secured the gold medal with an underwhelming effort of 82.27m.

After the Paavo Nurmi Games, Chopra will next be seen in action at the Paris Diamond League on July 7.

He has opted out of the National Inter-State Athletics in Panchkula to be held from June 27 to avoid a hectic schedule ahead of the Olympics.

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