By Harihar Swarup
After he won independent India’s first athletics gold at the Olympics, Neeraj Chopra went home and put on 12kg. His coach, was miffed, but he knew his pupil would shed the kilos. Neeraj Chopra is not the one to rest on his laurels, of which there have been many. Only 24, Neeraj is one of the best javelin throwers in the world and arguably one of India’s greatest athletes. And though it might sound hyperbolic, his parabolic pursuit has indeed made him an inspiration to an entire generation of Indians athletes.
Neeraj was not born into a sporting family. The Chopra clan of Khandra village in Panipat consists of the patriarch grandfather, and his four sons and their families, who live together. Neeraj is the eldest grandchild, and inspired his cousins to also take up sport. The villagers, too, come to him for advice on where to send their children to train.
This year has been hectic for Neeraj. Not only did he complete in several international events, he added to his list of achievements by winning the silver medal at world Athletes Championship and also became first Indian to win a diamond League final.
And, unlike after the Olympics, the downtime this year was not as relaxing. Yes, there was mom’s food but, he made sure he stayed within his ideal weight range by training at home. Also, it helps that his father and uncles do not let him just chill—he has to do farm work and other chores.
When out of Panipat, he was busy with advertisement shoots for several brands he endorses. Managed by JSW sports on and off the field, Neeraj has more than 10 brands in his kitty, ranging from sportswear to edutech companies. He also recently did a promotion video for Marvel film Black Panther: Wakanda for ever. (IPA Service)