Neeraj Chopra picked up javelin while fighting weight

Olympics medal hope Neeraj Chopra picked up javelin while fighting weight

Neeraj soon became friends with Jaiveer, a great javelin player, at the stadium

Neeraj Chopra with his family in Khandra. Credit: Special Arrangement

When 23-year-old Neeraj Chopra threw the javelin and won gold at the Olympic Games on Saturday, his entire village in Khandra in the Panipat district of Haryana watched it together on a single screen.

Neeraj Chopra won the men's javelin on Saturday with a best throw of 87.58 metres, claiming a historic first Olympic gold in athletics for India.

On Wednesday, Chopra threw a breathtaking 86.65m in the qualification round of men's javelin throw to enter the finals. 

Back home, his joint family, comprising 18 members, are standing behind him, though miles away.

The screen to watch the match has been arranged by the Athletics Federation of India, informed Neeraj’s uncle Bheem Chopra.

Also read — All eyes on Neeraj to end India's 100-year wait for Olympic medal in athletics

Neeraj hails from a farmer’s family, where milk and ghee from the farm always flowed in the house when he was young.  “Neeraj’s grandmother used to feed him both (milk and ghee) so much so that over time, he started putting on too much weight," Bheem said. 

"By the time he was 12-13, he weighed 80 kgs. That’s when my younger brother suggested that he should start getting into some form of physical activity to reduce his weight,” recollected Bheem.

On his advice, Neeraj joined a gym seven to eight kilometres away from his house though, initially, he refused to go there. But the gym shut after a while. 

“It was then we made him join the gym in Panchkula Stadium in Panipat. After his gym session, he would sit in the stadium and watch athletes in action till we took him back home after work, which was pretty late in the evening," Bheem said. 

Neeraj soon became friends with Jaiveer, a great javelin player, at the stadium. Jaiveer, who was like a big brother to him, asked him to try throwing the javelin instead of sitting idle in the stadium.

Neeraj was doing it for the first time but threw it to a great distance. 

That then was the beginning of his journey to the Tokyo Olympics.

“When he started doing well, we put all our earnings into him so that he could reach great heights," the uncle said. When he joined the national camp, he started playing major events and winning gold medals. If there should be more sportspersons like Neeraj in our country, programmes for encouraging the sporting talents of children should be put in place at the school level itself," Bheem said. 

"They should be able to receive all the facilities that are available at the national camp at a young age in the school itself. Only then, we can reach the level of sportspersons in western countries,” he said.

Neeraj, who is also a Subedar in the Army, spoke to the family from Tokyo after entering the finals.

“He is very confident. He said he would give his personal best on Saturday. We know he will come back with a medal. Doesn’t matter which colour it is,” the uncle said his voice brimming with hope.