All eyes on young Neeraj

All eyes on young Neeraj

All eyes will be on Neeraj Chopra when India open their athletics campaign at the Commonwealth Games on Sunday.

No Indian athlete has ever won a gold in javelin throw at the Games, but the 20-year-old from Khandra village in Haryana's Panipat district has the potential to break that trend. Neeraj, who has a personal best of 86.48 metres, comes into the Games with a season's best of 85.94m.

That throw is the best amongst Commonwealth Games this season. Also in Neeraj's favour is the fact that former Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott is skipping the event while 2016 Olympic silver medalist Julius Yego of Kenya has been woefully out of form.

Should Neeraj triumph, it would only be the fifth ever gold for India at the Games. Only Milkha Singh (440 yards, 1958), women's 4x400m relay (2010), Krishna Poonia (women's discus throw, 2010) and Vikas Gowda (men's discus throw, 2014) have won gold previously.

Neeraj is one of several medal-winning prospects for the Indian team. Competing in what she says will be her final Commonwealth Games, Seema Punia will be looking to end her journey on a high. The 34-year-old, who has won two silver and a bronze medal so far, will look to go all out this time around.

Triple-jumper Arpinder Singh, who won a bronze at the 2014 Glasgow Games, is also bidding to improve the colour of his prize this time around.

Also amongst India's brightest prospects will be 19-year-old high-jumper Tejaswin Shankar. The Kansas State University student broke his own national record of 2.26m this year with a jump of 2.28m at the Federation Cup this year. That leap was the best amongst Commonwealth Games athletes this year and he is expecting to improve on that performance at the Gold Coast games.

Tejaswin is one of a new generation of athletes who are making massive strides. Hima Das, just 18 years old, will be competing in the individual 400m as well as the relay and the 19-year-old Amoj Jacob will be competing in the men's 400m relay.

India could win their first medal on the opening day of the competition itself in the women's 20km race walk. B Soumya set a new national record in the women's 20km walk. Her time of 1.31.28 seconds is the third best by a Commonwealth athlete this season.

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