16 August 2018
New Delhi. Neeraj Chopra will deservingly lead the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games. It is an honour the 20-year-old has earned by virtue of being amongst India’s best prospects for a gold medal at the Continental Games.
Chopra’s has top class credentials by virtue of being the first Indian to win a gold medal at a World Championships. This came courtesy his victory at the 2016 World Youth Championships. But Chopra has continued with his fine feats in the javelin throw.
In 2018, Chopra maintained his fine form, consistently throwing the javelin beyond the 85m mark this year and also has set a new national record of 87.43 at the Doha Diamond League in May. In fact, the five best throws by an Asian athlete this year are all in his name. He has no shortage of titles too. The most significant of these was the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in Australia which made Chopra only the first Indian javelin thrower to win that competition.
Chopra will however not be overconfident in Jakarta. Amongst his competitors is Chinese Taipei’s Chao Tsun-Cheng who holds the Asian record of 91.36m. However Cheng has been very inconsistent and has failed to produce his best throw when it has mattered most. At the Asian Championships last year, there had been great expectations of Cheng but he only managed to take sixth place with an effort of 80.03m. At that competition it was Chopra who had romped to the gold medal with a throw of 85.23m.
While Chopra will be bidding for gold, his compatriot Shivpal Singh could also get on the podium. Singh qualified for the Asian Games with a throw of 82.28m at the Inter State Championships. That mark leaves him in fourth place this year amongst Asian throwers. However with a bit of luck there is no reason why two Indians couldn’t stand on the steps.
Before flying to Jakarta from Finland where he is training with National javelin coach Uwe Hohn of Germany, Chopra said, “It is a great honor for me to lead the Indian contingent and carry the country’s flag at such a prestigious event. As far my preparations for the Asian Games are concerned, I want to say that I am not thinking about any medal or rank, all I want to do is give my best there,”
“These three-four months in Europe have been very productive and I got a chance to compete in a lot of competitions in between. I am feeling good and as I said, my only target is give my best in Jakarta,” said Chopra.
A similar feat might be possible on the first day of the athletics competition too in the men’s shot put event. Tejinder Pal Toor is supremely confident of a medal “I am a sure contender for a medal. Of course, I will aim for gold. That is the biggest prize any athlete strives for. But even if I miss the gold, I am almost certain that I will finish on the podium,” Toor said.
Toor has already won medals at the Asian level. Last year at the Asian Championships he finished just three centimeters behind eventually Iran’s Ali Samari. Toor will be aiming higher this time.
“Any medal is valuable, but a gold is a gold,” he has said. Amongst the Asian throwers this season, Toor has the top two throws including a 20.24m effort in March. A close second is Iran’s Mehrdelan Shahin who has a best throw of 19.92m. But also close to the top of the podium is another Indian Naveen Chikkara. The 22-year-old has a best effort of 19.57m. Chikkara though has been consistently throwing above 19m and could well contribute to a historic 1-2 finish.