NEW DELHI: Neeraj Chopra (23) on Saturday created history by winning India’s first Olympic gold medal in athletics on the penultimate day of the Tokyo Games.
The Haryana athlete, who is a Subedar with 4 Rajputana Rifles in the Indian Army, clinched the gold in javelin throw with an attempt of 87.58 metres, becoming only the second Indian after Abhinav Bindra to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics, and the first athlete in Independent India to win a medal in a track & field event at the quadrangular event, the Indian Army said.
Chopra was born on December 24, 1997 into a family of farmers in the small village of Khandar in Panipat district in Haryana.
His father, Satish Kumar, is a farmer and mother, Saroj Devi, is a housewife. He grew up along with his two sisters.
Chopra took to javelin throw to reduce his weight and he quickly took a liking for the sport. The rest is now history.
He came into prominence with his performance at the U-20 World Championship in Poland in 2016 where he set a new junior world record with a throw of 86.48m. He then won the Asian Championship in 2017 in Bhubaneswar with a throw of 85.23m.
Neeraj then started training under the legendary Uwe Hohn of Germany and won the gold in Commonwealth Games in 2018 with a throw of 86.47m before throwing his personal best of 87.43m in the Doha leg of Diamond League in the same year. He also won gold at the Asian Games in 2018 with a throw of 88.06m.
Chopra was enrolled in 4 Rajputana Rifles as a direct entry Naib Subedar on May 15, 2016. After joining the Indian Army, he was selected for training in the Mission Olympics Wing and Army Sports Institute, Pune.
Mission Olympics Wing is a premier initiative of Indian Army to identify and train elite sportsmen in 11 selected disciplines at five Mission Olympics Nodes to excel in various national and international competitions.
Mission Olympics Wing has given two Olympic silver medals in shooting to the nation and is committed for many more.
Subedar Chopra’s medal highlights the hard work and efforts of Mission Olympics Wing.
Chopra was conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2018 and the Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) in 2020 for his excellence in sports.