Diamond League: Another first-place finish for Neeraj Chopra, India’s most bankable athlete


Friday night was cold at Lausanne during the Diamond League. When the first of the athletes, the women’s 400 metre runners started off, it was about 19 degrees Celsius with a light wind blowing. By the time four rounds were done in the men’s javelin throw, the temperature had dipped to 16 degrees. Over the years, a nip in the air has provided Indian athletes a ready excuse following a flop show at international meets.

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra isn’t one of them.

It says a lot about Chopra that he is able to gauge conditions quickly and work around them. Making a comeback after over a month on the sidelines because of a muscle strain, Chopra won his second straight Diamond League event with a best throw of 87.66 metres in his fifth attempt. The winning return was a special effort from Chopra because he was finding his way back to his peak.

“I was feeling a bit nervous coming back from an injury. It was a bit cold here tonight. I am still far from my best, but I feel it is getting better. I am relieved it’s coming together well for me. A win is a win and I will take that happily,” Chopra said post the first-place finish.


He had to battle the conditions and took time to hit his stride. Yet by the end of the night he had done enough to pip his competitors. He had missed two competitions since tweeting about the muscle strain during training. He was making a highly-anticipated return to Lausanne and like great athletes do, he found the moment to excel in the heat of the battle.


A return from injury, irrespective of the severity, can be tricky. But Chopra is other-worldly when it comes to soaking up pressure. At Lausanne he had to play catch up for most of the evening. At the same time he wouldn’t have wanted to push himself to the limit with the World Championships less than two months away.

Chopra tends to produce a big throw early in a competition. Like he did in his only other competition this year, the Doha Diamond League. In Qatar’s capital his opening throw measured 88.67 metres and was the winning one too. He had two other throws over 86 metres that day.

At Lausanne, however, Chopra began slowly with 83.52 metres. He wasn’t going to go all out straightaway. There wasn’t a point in taking undue risks or making a point to his rivals. He had to be patient, see how his body feels and bide his time.

By the third round he had moved to second place with 85.04 metres.

Germany’s Julian Weber had laid down the marker in the first round with 86.20 metres and Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch, in second place till the second round, would have fancied his chances. There was an X against Chopra’s for his fourth attempt. One more round to go for all nine throwers and the top-three at the end of it would have a sixth shot to decide the winner.

Crunch time is when Chopra produced his best throw of the night.


There was no fist pump or roar after the javelin pierced into the night sky. Chopra waited and watched till the 800 gram spear landed on its tip. He then turned around and walked away. But his self-belief shone through. He had trusted his ability on comeback from injury. When faced with a challenge he found a way to put the pressure back on those he was up against.

Now it was up to Weber and Vadlejch to turn their fortunes around.

The competition was on knife’s edge in the last and sixth round – comprising just him, Weber and Vadlejch, Chopra was the first to throw. He finished the evening with 84.15 metres and then had to wait to see what the German and the Czech could come up with. Weber, looking more beefed up than he was last season, saved his best for the last. His 87.03m wasn’t going to give him a first place finish but a strong throw at the end of a competition is a big deal.

Chopra and Weber sportingly clapped as Vadlejch stood at the top of the runway. Vadlejch had enough in the tank to throw 86.13, his best of the night. The three of them posed for a photograph, shook hands and went their separate ways. The 25-year-old Chopra has got a three-point lead in the Diamond League standings. Chopra has 16 points, from the Doha Diamond League and from Lausanne. Czech Republic’s Vadlejch is on 13 and Julian Weber on 12.

Friday night was another testament to Chopra’s consistency. He hasn’t yet crossed the 90 metre mark, but when it comes to major competitions he has the rare ability to produce the goods. Chopra has a knack, the skill and a calm head on his shoulders to put together what it takes to win a medal when it matters. He’s been so good that the last time he finished outside the top-three was way back in 2018. Chopra has spoiled his fans like no other Indian athlete because of his consistency. Come rain or shine, he is the country’s most bankable athlete.


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