Neeraj Chopra wins gold at Paavo Nurmi Games with an impressive series of throws

Neeraj Chopra
Neeraj Chopra (PC: X)

Neeraj Chopra once again showed to millions of athletic buffs back home in India that he is fit and ready for Paris 2024. At least, that is the impression one got while watching him on television. At the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland, on Tuesday night, Neeraj hurled a throw of 85.97 metres to win gold in a rich field which where two Finns and a German were supposed to challenge him.

This win for Neeraj is as important as all other wins, more because there was concern over a recent “precautionary break” necessitated by an ‘adductor’ issue. Someone like Neeraj is not going to compete unless he is fully fit. He has paid enormous importance to being in prime shape and not risking anything with even a minor niggle. So, when he skipped the Ostrava Golden Spike event towards the end of May, tongues were wagging.

For a nation obsessed with when Neeraj will throw the javelin a distance of 90 metres, he was in good shape and a good frame of mind inside in the arena in Turku, which is south-west Finland. Unlike the time he competed in the Federation Cup in Bhubaneswar in Odisha last month, where the weather was hot and humid, Turku was pleasant. The temperature was sub 20 Celsius and Neeraj had warmed up well.

Up against German sensation Max Dehning, Finns Toni Keranen and Oliver Helander, Neeraj was full of poise. To say that he had come well prepared would be stating the obvious. When Neeraj came in for the third attempt, he looked charged up. His body language was positive as he cranked up 85.97 metres. Sure enough, the show of emotions from Neeraj made it clear this effort would suffice on a night when pre-competition hype between the Indian and Dehning had made headlines. Anyone who has followed the exploits of Neeraj Chopra over the years, notably since the time he won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, will vouch he likes to approach a big event with focus.

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Technique in a field event like javelin is just one aspect, more important is to be in a good frame of mind. He is approaching the Paris Olympics in July/August, fully aware what the expectations are from billions in India. He has handled pressure very well, at the Olympics, multiple World Championships the big-ticket events of World Athletics and the chaotic Asian Games in Hangzhou.

On Tuesday evening, Neeraj was competing against rivals plus his own self. He knows, the big picture is Paris, a dream venue and a dream for every elite athlete who wants to win an Olympic medal. That the Indian hero is preparing in the best way and keeping himself distanced from needless hype is good.

After all, the experience of one Olympic gold medal is a positive as well as something which can add to the pressure. During the course of many media interactions, Neeraj has always talked of how he handles pressure without fear. The Paavo Nurmi Games was another example of it, as he will be approaching the Olympics in a good frame of mind. He has always talked of how important it is to win the medal rather than look at 90 metres as some kind of a magical target.

The final standings on Tuesday night spoke of Neeraj dominating, in a clinical way. His own best effort was 85.97 metres, followed by Toni Keranen (84.19 metres) and Anderson Peters (82.58 metres). Dehning was way behind at 79.84 metres.

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