Neeraj Chopra, the 23-year-old javelin thrower,
brought India its very long-awaited Olympic gold medal and even longer awaited
Olympic medal on Saturday.

The last time India won a gold medal was in 2008 when
Abhinav Bindra rose to glory in the 10-metre air rifle event.

And until 2008, India, a country of a billion people
did not have a single gold medal in an individual event.

Also Read | Neeraj Chopra wins gold in javelin throw, India’s first Olympic medal in athletics

But an Olympic medal in athletics or any track-and-field
event has been even more elusive. Giants of their fields, legends like Milkha
Singh and PT Usha have gone without an Olympic medal in athletics.

At the 1960 Olympics in Rome, the ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha
Singh was the top contender for the athletics medal. But he missed out on a
bronze by a mere 1/10th of a second.

Also Read | Neeraj Chopra wins gold, ends India’s 100-year wait for Olympic medal in athletics

Singh was so heartbroken that he would call it his
life’s worst memory after his parents were killed in the aftermath of the

The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles brought back the
heartbreak of Milkha. PT Usha, the track-and field athlete from Kerala who had
all of India’s hopes on her shoulders, missed the 400-metre hurdles bronze by
1/100 th of a second, making it the closest-ever miss for an Indian athlete in
any competition.

In 2016, when the Olympics was
held in Rio de Janeiro, Dipa Karmakar became the first Indian woman gymnast to
compete at the Games.

Also Read | In Neeraj Chopra, India gets second individual Olympic gold

After making the final of the women’s vault event,
Karmakar finished fourth overall with a score of 15.066 and missed the bronze
medal by 0.150 points.

Which is why Chopra’s gold is so special for India. Chopra’s stupendous performance in the javelin throw on Saturday, where he left his competition far behind, serves as a message to the world of India’s increasing athletics prowess.