Neeraj Chopra prepares for a different challenge as he returns to defend Asian Games title
Neeraj Chopra, the Indian javelin thrower and Olympic champion, reflects on his transformation from a rising star at the 2018 Asian Games to a global athletics sensation.
Neeraj Chopra’s life has taken a monumental turn since his journey began in athletics at the Asian Games in 2018 in Jakarta. In that pivotal year, Chopra secured gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, and continued his winning streak by clinching gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta.
Fast forward to the present, and the 25-year-old hailing from Sonipat, Haryana, finds himself in a vastly different landscape. Chopra’s journey has seen him ascend to unprecedented heights, including winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, claiming victory in the Diamond League Final in 2022, and realizing his dream by becoming the World Champion in Budapest, Hungary, earlier this year.
As he prepares to defend the Asian Games title he triumphantly secured in Jakarta, numerous aspects of Chopra’s life have undergone profound transformations.
“When I participated in Jakarta, I felt no pressure. Nobody had lofty expectations of me in the Games Village. I simply focused on my performance and enjoyed myself,” he recollected.
Now, Chopra bears the weight of an entire nation’s expectations. Every time he steps onto the javelin runway, he carries the collective hopes of a nation. Athletes across the spectrum look up to him, and people, including fellow sportspersons, eagerly seek photographs and selfies with him.
In a role reversal of sorts, cricketers, often treated as demigods in India, now line up to capture moments with him, as was evident when the Indian men’s cricket team sought photo opportunities with him in the Asian Games Village in Hangzhou.
“The cricketers are now an integral part of events like these. Last year, the women’s cricket team participated in the Commonwealth Games, and now both the men’s and women’s teams are here in Hangzhou. Efforts are underway to include cricket in the Olympics as well. It’s heartening to meet them here. I had a wonderful time meeting them yesterday. I have always believed that the atmosphere in the athletes’ village has a tremendously positive impact on athletes. Even after a challenging training session, you leave the village feeling rejuvenated,” Chopra shared during a press conference at the Athletes Village in Hangzhou.
Neeraj Chopra’s life has come full circle as he has risen to become a global superstar in athletics.
“Yes, it was an exceptional event for me with a strong throw of 88.06 meters. However, much has changed since then. I have realized several of my dreams—winning an Olympic medal was one of them, and I achieved it. Becoming the World Champion was another dream come true,” Chopra remarked.
Throughout this remarkable journey, Chopra has imbibed valuable lessons in humility, respectful interactions, and readiness to confront new challenges. He acknowledges that fame can be fleeting, while the relationships he builds with people endure.
Chopra recognizes that the Hangzhou Asian Games present a unique challenge for him as he defends a title he won in a major multi-discipline sporting event for the first time. Notably, Chopra did not defend his gold medal in the javelin throw at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.
“This marks my inaugural attempt at defending a title I won in a mega event, presenting a different kind of challenge. I hope to give my absolute best here and offer a strong performance,” emphasized Chopra, who stands among the select Olympic champions in athletics participating in Hangzhou.