87.58m on August 7, 2021. These are not just numbers. The numbers India will never forget as finally, India won a track and field medal. It took an agonising 121 years to break India’s Olympics jinx in athletics. And it was a gold medal thanks to Neeraj Chopra, the handsome Haryanvi from Panipat.
As Chopra’s Valhalla javelin flew, over a billion Indians anxiously waited with prayer on their lips. The score was 87.58 metres in Chopra’s first attempt. When an athletics bronze medal would have been just fine, Chopra dreamed of gold. He knew he had struck gold the moment he released the javelin the first time. And Chopra did not break any record, he created one.
After heartbreaks in 1960 Rome and 1984 Los Angeles where Milkha Singh, PT Usha missed track and field medals by a whisker, the onus fell on the shoulders of Chopra’s shoulders. He dared to dream big.
Vetter had claimed Chopra won’t be able to beat him in Olympics as throwing 90m was like riding a bike in a park for him. But the German giant got eliminated on the D-day. The young Chopra who didn’t look the part of a smiling assassin had the last laugh. August 7 was Neeraj Chopra’s day, a date he now owns. Chopra did not have to do better than Vetter and the world’s best javelin thrower returned home without winning an Olympic medal.
The Panipat boy was destined to script history. Chopra is only the second Indian ever after shooter Abhinav Bindra to win an individual gold medal, and the first Indian since independence to win an athletics medal at the Olympics.
The golden moment that followed the hockey bronze is a genuinely historic moment in Indian sport.
What Chopra achieved on Saturday evening is nothing less than India’s Yuri Gagarin moment or call it India’s moon landing moment. Chopra is both Gagarin and Neil Armstrong of Indian sports. The Indian flag will now fly high in world athletics, the core of all Olympics disciplines. Chopra’s golden act propelled India to its best-ever Olympic tally of seven medals, one up on six in the London Games in 2012.
The Tokyo performance has made India believe in itself and dream big. India will no longer be content with a bronze or silver medal; young India doesn’t want to be a quitter anymore.
Now begins the time to start the hard work to build on Tokyo’s performance. As the new India cannot be content with seven Olympic medals. It cannot be left to Odisha alone to spend crores on hockey. Sports promoters have a duty to look beyond cricket.
Let Chopra’s gold trigger a sporting revolution across the country and not just limited to the northeast or Haryana. Let a thousand Sindhus, Salima Tetes, Sreejesh, Mirabais and Lavlinas bloom both in Indian cities and the hinterland. Let our village school grounds, akharas, ponds be the starting point in India’s quest to become a sporting powerhouse. We simply cannot let go of this dream. Let’s go for glory. Hum Honge Kamyab…