A nation of 1.3 billion erupted in joy on Saturday (August 7) after Neeraj Chopra won the men’s javelin at the Tokyo Games to secure India’s first ever Olympic athletics gold post-independence.
Thirteen years after shooter Abhinav Bindra won independent India’s first individual Olympic gold in Beijing, 23-year-old Chopra obliterated the field with a best throw of 87.58 metres.
Expectations soared after the 23-year-old seized the lead with a throw of 87.03 on his first attempt and his second sealed India’s first Olympic athletics medal.
The cricket-mad country stayed glued to television sets to follow Chopra’s progress, while friends, family, relatives and neighbours of Chopra gathered in his hometown of Panipat to watch the final on a big screen.
“I am very happy. I am proud that my son won the first Olympic gold for the country (track and field) in athletics,” said Chopra’s father Sanjay Balyan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was joined by President Ram Nath Kovind and several other ministers in paying tribute to Chopra’s success.
“History has been scripted at Tokyo! What @Neeraj_chopra1 has achieved today will be remembered forever,” Modi tweeted.
“The young Neeraj has done exceptionally well. He played with remarkable passion and showed unparalleled grit. Congratulations to him for winning the Gold.”
India is the most successful hockey nation in Olympic history with eight men’s titles but has largely been starved of individual success.
(Production: Mike Brock)