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Page 14 n THE ASIAN REPORTER
August 1, 2022
Love at first flight: Indian javelin thrower inspires nation
By Pat Graham
The Associated Press
UGENE, Ore. — There was no grand plan that
launched Neeraj Chopra on the path to becoming
an Olympic champion javelin thrower, only a
Pudgy and pampered — his description — as a kid
growing up in the northern part of India, Chopra’s uncle
suggested one day that he head out to a nearby stadium to
get some exercise.
It was there that Chopra first saw the javelin. Some
might say it was love at first flight — a twist of fate that
has made him a gold medallist and a recognizable name in
a country of a billion people. Last month at the world
championships in Eugene, Oregon, Chopra added a silver
medal to his list of achievements.
“I keep hearing stories about kids wanting to take up
athletics and parents also being more open to allowing
their children to take up sport,” the 24-year-old Chopra
said in an e-mail interview with The Associated Press.
“That is what I believe is the true legacy of my medal, and
it is something I am incredibly happy and proud about.”
Since he became India’s first Olympic gold medallist in
track and field last year, Chopra has appeared on the
cover of Vogue India and his name has become one of the
most searched on the internet among athletes in a country
where cricket rules. August 7 in India is National Javelin
Day — the day he took the gold in Tokyo.
It wasn’t all by accident.
Growing up, he always loved to throw. He’d get the
family’s cattle out of the water by throwing stones close to
them, no matter how far away he was. He loved throwing
sticks as far as he could while walking around his family’s
wheat and rice farm.
It helped turn his right arm into a potent machine. His
very first javelin throw was a modest 30 or so meters (98
feet, 5 inches). Two weeks, and a few tips later, he was
already up to 45 meters (147 feet, 7 inches).
“I remember it felt very good to be able to throw so far,”
He was only getting started. His winning throw in
Tokyo was 87.58 meters (287 feet, 4 inches). These days,
he’s recognized everywhere he goes in India — streets,
malls, airports, and restaurants. Everyone wants to take
a picture with Chopra or get his autograph.
“It’s different from earlier when I could be more carefree
about roaming around in public, but I like to think of it as
me being privileged to receive so much adulation,” Chopra
said. “I’m mostly grateful for the support.”
There’s pressure, too, as one of the most familiar faces in
a country that reveres cricket, soccer, badminton, field
hockey, and, now, the javelin.
“I try to go into every competition with the same aim,
which is to do my best and try to achieve my best throw,”
Chopra said. “As long as I’ve been training well and
feeling good about my body, I am confident about my
chances and that’s the mindset I usually use going into
any competition, be it the Olympics or world
championships. It’s worked for me in the past, so
hopefully, it continues to work for me.”
ACCOMPLISHED ATHLETE. Silver medallist Neeraj Chopra of
India poses during a medal ceremony for the men’s javelin throw final at
the World Athletics Championships on July 23, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon.
Since becoming India’s first Olympic gold medallist in track and field last
year, Chopra’s name has become one of the most searched on the in-
ternet among athletes in a country where cricket rules. August 7 in India
is National Javelin Day — the day Chopra won gold in Tokyo. (AP Photo/
In May, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) debuted
a kids’ javelin to encourage an even safer way to take part
in the sport. The launch was announced by none other
than Chopra in a video message.
“We cannot let go of the spike in interest for athletics
among youngsters in India,” AFI president Adille J.
Sumariwalla said in a release.
Chopra also is in the Indian Army, holding the rank of
subedar, which is one higher than junior commissioned
officer, he explained. He’s been given no specific military
requirements other than to keep doing what he does best
In that regard, Chopra is still searching for that
“perfect” throw, where everything comes together. He had
a setback in May 2019 when he underwent elbow surgery
to remove bone fragments that had dislodged. That led
him to miss the world championships in Doha that season,
which made him more eager for the version of worlds held
in Oregon last month.
Chopra has returned to the shape he was in before
elbow surgery. In late June, he threw 89.94 (295 feet, 1
inch) — the longest throw of his career. For perspective,
the world record is 98.48 (323 feet, 1 inch) set by Jan
Zelezny in 1996.
“Despite the many competitions I’ve competed in and
throws I’ve thrown, there’s always this feeling that
something could have been better,” Chopra said. “Having
said that, I think that feeling is also important to keep the
hunger and drive to do better alive.”
It also helps knowing there are kids in India getting
involved because of him.
“I am known as Neeraj Chopra,” he said, “because of
One of Asia’s fiercest soccer rivalries has become one-sided
SOCCER RIVALRY. Son Heung-min, second
right, of Tottenham Hotspur, kicks the ball against
Sevilla FC at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon,
South Korea, on July 16, 2022. An Asian soccer rivalry
unlike no other is starting to become one-sided. South
Korea has defeated Japan 42 times and lost just 16
matches. But Japan has won its last two matches
against its regional foes by 3-0 score lines in the past
18 months, including a match last week in Japan.
South Korea boasts Asia’s biggest star in Son
Heung-min, who won the English Premier League’s
Golden Boot award as the leading goal scorer with
Tottenham Hotspur last season. (AP Photo/Ahn
By John Duerden
The Associated Press
EOUL, South Korea — An Asian
soccer rivalry unlike no other is
starting to become one-sided.
South Korea has defeated Japan 42
times and lost just 16 matches. But Japan
has won its last two matches against its
regional foes by 3-0 score lines in the past
18 months, including a match last month
When Japan made its first World Cup
appearance in 1998, South Korea was
playing in its fifth tournament. The South
Koreans reached the semifinals in 2002
when the two countries co-hosted and
remains the best performance by any
Asian team at the World Cup. In 2018,
however, Japan advanced to the knockout
stages while South Korea failed to advance
from group play.
In March 2021, Japan defeated its rival
3-0 in Yokohama and it repeated that feat
in Toyota last week in the East Asian
Championships, clearly superior in both
games. And it is not just the senior team —
a June meeting at the Asian under-23
championships saw Japan win 3-0 once
“These days, Japanese players do not
have a complex about Korea or feel that
they are psychologically inferior,” Japan
coach Hajime Moriyasu said when asked if
the country had overcome its stigma
against South Korea.
Japanese media were not overly excited
with the victory that gave the host nation
seven points and first place in the East
Asian Championships which also featured
China and Hong Kong.
“It was not a satisfactory win as Korea
was too weak,” said Soccer Digest.
South Korea coach Paulo Bento said the
defeat resulted from defensive mistakes
and preferred not to talk about the rivalry
between the teams.
“It is dangerous to compare only with
Japan because the environment, situation,
and training methods in each country are
different,” he said.
Comparisons are inevitable, however,
between Asia’s two most successful soccer
nations. With both teams missing
European-based stars, the meeting was
largely between players from the J-League
and the K-League.
Japan, fielding a less experienced team,
Although South Korea boasts Asia’s
biggest star in Son Heung-min, who won
the English Premier League’s Golden Boot
award as leading goal scorer with
Tottenham Hotspur last season, Japan
can name an entire roster filled with
And domestically, the J-League is in the
ascendancy with pre-pandemic atten-
dances of 20,751 in 2019, more than double
that of its South Korean counterpart.
Regardless of recent results and the
attendance drop, South Korean defender
Kim Jin-su is confident that Asia’s most
successful World Cup team will be able to
turn things around before the start of
November’s World Cup in Qatar.
Japan is playing in Group E with
Germany, Costa Rica, and Spain. South
Korea is in Group H with Uruguay, Ghana,
“Of course, we are worried (about the
Japan loss) but there is still time to
prepare for the World Cup,” Kim said.