Eugene (USA): Gold eluded him, but with a historic silver medal here, Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra again made history once again, becoming only the second Indian and first male track and field athlete to win a medal at the World Championships.
The 24-year-old Chopra, who had entered the showpiece as a strong medal favorite, shot a best throw of 88.13m, which came in the fourth round, to finish second behind defending champion Anderson Peters of Granada (90.54m).
Legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George was the first Indian to win a medal – bronze – at the World Championships in 2003 in Paris.
It was a nervous and unusual start for Chopra, as he opened with a bad throw and had 82.39m and 86.37m to be fourth after three rounds.
But, much to the relief of the Indian contingent and the legions of his fans at home, he found his rhythm as he landed a fourth-round big throw of 88.13m, his fourth career-best effort, to advance to second. place he held until the end.
His fifth and sixth pitches were fouls.
Chopra won gold at the Tokyo Olympics last year with a second throw of 87.58m and just needed a first-round effort of 88.39m to advance to the final at second. place here.
The usual big smile was back as Chopra, a farmer’s son from Khandra village near Panipat in Haryana, made the ‘calm down’ gesture and showed the victory sign with his right hand .
Chopra was no match for Grenada’s gold medal winner Anderson Peters, however, who shot a massive 90.54m to defend the title he won last year in 2019 in Doha.
Peters, also 24, became only the second man in javelin throwing history to defend the World Championships title after legendary Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic won gold in the 1993 editions and 1995.
Peters was a class apart in the final as he landed three massive throws over 90m. He opened with 90.21m then sent his spear 90.46m on his second attempt. After a series of 87.21m, 88.11m and 85.83m on his next three throws, his javelin flew and landed 90.54m away on his final attempt to seal the win in style.
Olympic silver medalist Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic won bronze with 88.09m.
Chopra received his money from Athletics Federation of India (AFI) President Adille Sumariwalla during the victory ceremony to cheers from several Indians in the stands, including fellow athletes.
Chopra had dominated the Group A qualifying round and reached the final in second place behind Peters by sending his spear 88.39m for his third career best throw. Peters had topped Group B with an effort of 89.91m.
The other Indian in the fray, Rohit Yadav finished 10th with a best throw of 78.72m. Rohit finished 11th overall in the qualifying round with a best throw of 80.42m.
Rohit, 21, had clocked a season and personal best 82.54m while winning a silver medal at the Interstate Nationals last month.
With one silver medal and five finals, it turned out to be India’s best ever performance at the World Championships in Athletics.
Chopra won India’s first athletics gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. He is only the second Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics, after shooter Abhinav Bindra, who won the yellow metal at the Beijing Games in 2008.
Chopra burst onto the international scene with a gold medal at the 2016 World Junior Championships. He is currently the reigning Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold medalist. He also won a gold medal at the 2017 Asian Championships.