Olympic champion India’s Neeraj Chopra will go up against Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem, defending champion Anderson Peters of Grenada and others for gold in the men’s javelin throw final on Sunday.
Chopra qualified for his maiden World Championships final with a stunning first attempt throw of 88.39m as India witnessed a historic day at the event with two of its javelin throwers making it to the medal round in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
The 24-year-old Indian superstar, the hot favourite for a medal, opened the Group A qualification round by sending his spear to 88.39m for his third career-best throw.
Chopra finished second best overall behind defending champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who topped Group B with his opening round effort of 89.91m.
Nadeem also made it to the finals after finishing fourth in Group B, and ninth overall, with a best throw of 81.71m.
Those who cleared 83.50m or the 12 best performers across two qualification round groups qualified for the final to be held on Sunday (5.35 am UAE Time).
“It was a good start. I’ll give my 100 percent in the final. We’ll see. Every day is different. I’ll just give my best. We don’t know who can throw far on any given day,” Chopra said after his event.
“There is a little bit of zigzag in my run-up. I shook a little bit, but it was a good throw. There are so many throwers in good shape now. Five-six throwers have thrown PBs this year. They are all in excellent shape,” he added. Chopra’s qualification round lasted a few minutes as he did not need to take the remaining two throws after breaching the automatic qualification mark on his first attempt. A competitor gets three throws in the qualification round.
Another Indian in the fray, Rohit Yadav also made it to the finals after finishing sixth in Group B qualification round, and 11th overall, with his first round throw of 80.42m.
His second throw was a foul and he managed a modest 77.32m in his last attempt. The 21-year-old Indian had recorded a season’s and personal best of 82.54m while winning a silver at the National Inter-State Championships last month.
Chopra, who has a personal best of 89.94m, had competed in the 2017 London World Championships with the hope of at least making it to the finals but managed only 82.26m to fall short of the automatic qualification mark of 83m.
He had missed the 2019 World Championships in Doha as he was recovering from an elbow surgery.
In other events, Eldhose Paul became the first Indian to qualify for the triple jump final at the World Championships with an effort of 16.68m. He finished sixth in Group A qualification round and 12th overall to make the cut for Sunday’s final (5.20 am UAE Time).
The 25-year-old Paul, who reached here just a few days ago due to visa issues, has a season’s and personal best of 16.99m which he had recorded while winning gold in the Federation Cup in April. Chopra has beaten Peters twice this season while the 24-year-old Grenadian prevailed over the Indian once — at the Diamond League Meeting in Stockholm on June 30 — in their three meetings before the World Championships.
World leader Peters has thrown 90m-plus thrice with the best being a monster throw of 93.07m while winning gold at the year’s first Diamond League Meeting in Doha in May. After winning the gold in Stockholm, he had said he was not fully fit due to a back problem.
Germany’s Julian Weber was the fourth athlete to breach the automatic qualification mark, also with his opening throw of 87.28m. He was third overall. Four competitors across the two groups breached the automatic qualification mark.
If Chopra wins in the final on Sunday, he will become only the third male javelin thrower to follow Olympic success with World Championship gold after Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen (2008-09) and world record holder Jan Zelezny of Czech Republic in 2000-01 and 1992-93.
Chopra had become the first Indian track and field athlete to bag an Olympic gold last year and is also the reigning Commonwealth Games and Asian Games champion. — PTI
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