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Neeraj storms into final

Express News Service

CHENNAI: CONSISTENCY is a word that usually defines the best from the rest. No matter what the stage — the Olympics or the world championships — these super humans never falter. On a day when Shericka Jackson became the fastest woman alive with a meet record of 21.45s and the indomitable Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce added a silver to her innumerable medals, Neeraj Chopra was plying his trade quietly. Ever since he made a comeback from injury a couple of years ago, with a new coach (Klaus Bartonietz), Neeraj has been improving his mark remarkably. Whatever the stage, whatever the occasion.

On Thursday (early Friday in India) at the World Championships in Eugene, the Tokyo 2020 javelin champion needed just one throw to overhaul the qualification mark with a throw of 88.39m. The automatic qualification mark was set at 83.50m or top 12 best performers. There was no need for a second attempt. It had been the story of the season’s consistency. To put this into context, his best throw before this was 88.07m in the 2021 Indian Grand Prix and 88.06 in 2018 Asian Games before injury. In short, ever since he made a comeback after injury in 2020 he has been improving.

This season, though a wee bit delayed due to various reasons, including the postponed Asian Games and a trifle in starting to train last year, he has been phenomenal. Only Grenada’s Anderson Peters could throw (89.91m) more than him on Friday in Group B in his first attempt. Czech Yakub Valdejch, who is the other thrower to have crossed 90m this season, too qualified with 85.23m in his first attempt.

Chopra’s other challengers would be Julian Weber, who, too, had been consistent this year but has not produced anything that’s beyond Neeraj’s best of 89.94m at Stockholm Diamond League. Oliver Halendar of Finland had his best at 89.83m. Going by the record, a medal is almost certain but what colour will be determined on Saturday evening in Eugene and early morning here in India. With everyone starting from scratch, Saturday (early Sunday in India) will be another day. But a day, like he and his coach feel, time to enjoy.

For India, the day was defined by other athletes too. For the first time two javelin throwers qualified when Rohit Yadav with his effort of 80.42 qualified at 11th place for the final. In triple jump, for the first time Eldhose Paul entered the summit round with a jump of 16.68m as one of top 12 performers. Rohit, too, had been quite consistent this year with 80+ throws and a best effort of 83.54m at inter-state senior nationals in Chennai last month. While Paul’s best this season had been 16.99m.

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