India’s world and Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra on Wednesday said domestic competition in javelin throw will be more exciting in future. The 25-year-old star javelin thrower categorically pointed towards Odisha’s rising javelin thrower and Asian Games silver-medallist Kishore Kumar Jena.
“I see two Indian javelin throwers joining the 90m club in future,” Chopra said on the sidelines of a felicitation ceremony of the Asian Games athletics contingent by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) in the Capital.
Chopra started his season by winning javelin at Doha Diamond League in May but pulled his groin and had to skip a couple of international events. However, he recovered from the niggle and bounced back to win gold at the 2023 World Athletics Championships held in Hungary and successfully defended his title at the Asian Games.
Chopra revealed that Jena’s performance during the just-concluded 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou acted as a catalyst to rekindle his energy.
“It was a healthy rivalry between me and Jena during the medal round in men’s javelin throw in Hangzhou,” Chopra added.
While Chopra won gold with a throw of 88.88m, Jena settled for silver with a throw of 87.54m.
At one juncture of the javelin competition in Hangzhou, Jena took the pole position with a throw of 86.77m while Chopra was trailing at second spot with a throw of 84.49m.
The lead was temporary as Chopra dug deep into his reserves to hurl the spear to a distance of 88.88m to win gold. Jena’s best throw of 87.54m fetched him silver.
At the 19th Asian Games, Indian athletics contingent won 29 medals, six of them gold, 14 silver and nine bronze.
Adille Sumariwalla, President of AFI, said the Indian squad could have enhanced the gold medal tally in Hangzhou but didn’t capitalise on the chances.
“I will say it was a bad miss in middle distance events and women’s 4x400m relay at the Asian Games,” Sumariwalla added.
Sumariwalla, who is one of the vice presidents at the World Athletics said the Indian athletes also gave a good account of their performance at the Budapest World Athletics Championship held between August 19 to 27.
“While Neeraj Chopra was crowned world champion, Jena and Manu DP were in top six, which suggests the growing stature of Indian javelin throwers at the global stage,” Sumariwalla added.
Besides the javelin throw, the men’s 4x400m relay team was impressive and shattered the Asian record during heats at the World Athletics Championships. The national team eventually finished fifth in the final and clocked 2:59.92 seconds.
“The outstanding performance in a packed 2023 season was a big boost to the confidence of the Indian athletes ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games,” Sumariwalla added.