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With his back against the wall, Neeraj finds silver lining at World Championships


CHANDIGARH: Celebrations broke out in Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s village in Panipat on Sunday after he won a landmark silver medal in the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, USA.

Son of a farmer from Khandra village near Panipat in Haryana, the 24-year-old Chopra became only the second Indian and first male track and field athlete to win a medal at the showpiece. Congratulatory messages poured in from various quarters including Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, his deputy Dushyant Chautala and former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

The women of his village danced and sang while family members got busy receiving guests and distributing ‘ladoos’ (sweets). “Everyone is feeling very proud. This medal is of Olympic level. So, it is a very big achievement,” Chopra’s uncle Bhim Chopra, who has played a key role in shaping his career, told PTI over phone.

Bhim said the whole country is happy and proud of his achievement. “He has been constantly working very hard and we are happy that he has brought laurels for his country,” he said, adding villagers had gathered at their house since morning.

The javelin thrower’s father Satish Chopra referred to long jumper Anju Bobby George being the first Indian to win a medal — bronze — in the World Championships nearly two decades ago. “We had so far a bronze medal in World Championships and now Neeraj has won a sliver, we are proud,” he said.

The athlete’s mother Saroj was busy distributing sweets and receiving the guests. “Entire country and the entire Haryana is proud of him,” she told reporters, adding that there were some anxious moments after a subdued start.

Chopra, who had come into the showpiece as a hot medal favourite, produced a best throw of 88.13m, which came in the fourth round, to finish second behind defending champion Anderson Peters of Grenada (90.54m).

It was a nervy start for Chopra as he opened with a foul before registering 82.39m and 86.37m to be placed fourth after three rounds. But, to the relief of the Indian contingent, and the legions of his fans back home, he got his rhythm back as he came up with a big fourth round throw of 88.13m, his fourth career-best effort, to jump to second place, which he held on to till the end.

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