Golden boy Neeraj Chopra puts hard work and golgappas on top6 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
He is the first Indian to win a gold medal in athletics at the Olympics.
He seems to love puppies (who doesn’t?!)
He posts a lot about his training regime…and can balance really well.
But what do we really know about Neeraj Chopra — the javelin thrower who has won everyone’s hearts? Let’s learn a little about this amazing athlete.
Neeraj Chopra is a 23-year-old who hails from Khandra village in Haryana’s Panipat. On August 7, he made history by becoming the first Indian after Independence to win an Olympic gold medal in a track or field event.
Owliver’s Obscure Observations
India’s only previous athletics medals came in 1900 — two silvers won by Norman Pritchard, son of a British colonial family, in the 200m and the 200m hurdles. Despite a record number of hockey team golds, the nation’s only previous individual gold was won by shooter Abhinav Bindra in 2012.
Neeraj was initially interested in cricket, like many in the country, but took up javelin throw in 2011 as he was inspired by watching people throw javelin in Haryana.
The son of a farmer, Neeraj is a Subedar (a rank of junior commissioned officer in the Indian Army) and he has four Rajputana Rifles in the Indian Army. He is a graduate of DAV college in Chandigarh.
Neeraj won in javelin throw at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, and the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. In 2016, he became the first Indian to win a junior world title in athletics by winning gold at the World Junior Championships in Poland.
Neeraj’s mantra: When you work hard enough,
the external factors fade away.
Praise and rewards
People back home are celebrating Neeraj’s historic feat, and have been piling on the praise and rewards for the young athlete. The 23-year-old athlete from Haryana has been honoured by several state governments and private organisations for his remarkable achievement.
On Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh announced a special cash reward of Rs 2 crore for his award-winning 87.58m javelin throw.
Neeraj will also get a cash reward of Rs 6 crore, Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said on Saturday. The Manipur government has announced to award Neeraj ₹1 crore.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India on Saturday announced a cash reward of Rs 1 crore for Neeraj. IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings also declared a reward of Rs 1 crore. IndiGo announced that it will offer unlimited free travel for one year to Neeraj.
On Sunday, edtech major BYJU’S announced a cash reward of Rs 2 crore for Neeraj; Anand Mahindra, chairman of Mahindra and Mahindra, has announced to give a brand new XUV 700 to Chopra when he returns to India.
Golgappas are an exception
Though Neeraj follows a strict diet and exercise routine, he can’t hide his love for the Indian chaat golgappas. “I think there is no harm in eating golgappas. It’s mostly water and most of your stomach gets filled with water. The papri is quite big but the amount of flour is very little. It’s mostly water that’s going inside you,” said Neeraj in an interview with ESPN.
“Of course, I wouldn’t suggest you have them daily, but I think it’s ok for an athlete to have a few golgappas once in a while.”
Talking about food, Neeraj’s favourite cheat meal is churma (crushed wheat with sugar and ghee) made at his home. His mother Saroj said she is waiting for her son to return home from Tokyo so that she can feed him his favourite dish!
Soon after creating history in Tokyo, Neeraj won the hearts of millions of fans as he dedicated his gold medal to the late Milkha Singh. The legendary Indian sprinter passed away in June 2021. “I dedicate this medal to Milkha Singh. I hope he’s watching upon me from wherever he is,” he said.
Milkha had come close to winning a medal in track and field events but fell short as he finished fourth in the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Do you know how many medals India has won at the ongoing Olympics? And do you know the faces behind these medals? Match the names to the faces in the puzzle below!
Sources: NDTV, India Today, The Bridge, Deccan Herald, Times of India
Photos: Twitter, Instagram, PTI