Neeraj Chopra became an overnight sensation after winning the first gold for India in athletics with the best throw of 87.58m at Tokyo Olympics earlier this month. The 23-year-old also became the only second Indian to win an individual gold medal in the Games after Abhinav Bindra. But the historic feat was preceded by some tense moments as India's star javelin thrower realized his javelin was missing at the start of the final.
"I was not able to find it. Suddenly I saw (Pakistan's) Arshad Nadeem was moving around with my javelin. Then I told him, ‘Bhai give this javelin to me, it is my javelin! I have to throw with it’. Then he gave it back to me,” Chopra told Times of India in an interview.
He revealed this was the reason why his first throw may have appeared hurried to a lot of people. Chopra said Nadeem's "really good performance" in the qualifying round and the final bodes well for Pakistan to show more interest in javelin and do well at the international stage.
The young Indian athlete has been in the limelight ever since his return from the Tokyo Olympics. He has been feted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Army chief General MM Naravane besides one-to-one meetings with cricket and Bollywood stars like Sachin Tendulkar and Salman Khan. His soaring popularity in India was acknowledged by the World Athletics, the global governing body for track and field events, that ranked his gold-winning performance as one of the top 10 magical moments of the Games.
But the attention came at a cost as Chopra fell ill recently. “I had fever. I used to be drenched in sweat while attending functions and then I used to get into air-conditioned cars. I wasn’t getting any rest and I wasn't eating properly because of the busy routine,” Chopra said.
He stressed that India should not rest on the laurels brought home by its Olympic contingent. “These things need to change. It’s a nice thing that a medal has come but everything needs to be systematic,” Chopra said in the interview.