On Wednesday at the Tokyo Olympics, Neeraj Chopra won the qualification round and advanced to the javelin throw final.
The 23-year-first old’s throw of 86.65m was sufficient, surpassing the automatic qualification standard of 83.50m, which only six men exceeded. And the overall rankings at the end of the qualification round looked strange, with Neeraj on top, followed by Germany’s world leader Johannes Vetter, who struggled at first before cutting with his final round effort of 85.64m.
Arshad Nadeem of Pakistan finished third with 85.16m. It was the first time a Pakistani athlete had competed in an Olympic athletics final.
The Asian Games champion, Neeraj is the 12th Indian athlete and the first javelin thrower to compete in an Olympic final.
Meanwhile, Asian silver medalist Shivpal Singh, the other Indian in the competition, placed 12th in his group and 27th overall with 76.40m, despite having a personal best of 86.23m. Only the top 12 were chosen to compete in the final.
Vetter, who had a string of 90m-plus throws this season, could only manage 82.04 and 82.08 in his first two throws and was on the verge of elimination until he came back with the big one in the third.
Surprisingly, Poland’s Marcin Krukowski (74.65m) and Trinidad and Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott (79.33m), who had both gone over 89 m this year and were ranked second and third on this year’s world list, failed to make the final.
Grenada’s 2019 World champion Anderson Peters (80.42m) and Latvia’s Gatis Cakss (78.73m), this year’s No. 4, were both absent.
With many prominent names dropping out, Neeraj’s prospects of winning India’s first Olympic medal in athletics have improved. Today, the former World Junior Champion exuded confidence. The final will take place on August 7.