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Neeraj Chopra, the celebrated Olympic and world champion in javelin throw, was unable to secure his Diamond League championship title defense. He secured the second position with a rather modest throw of 83.80m during the grand finale.
Chopra, at 25 years old, had recently clinched his first-ever World Championships gold. However, he faced difficulties producing his best performance during the winner-takes-all Finals, which marked the conclusion of the 13-leg one-day meeting series held at Hayward Field on a Saturday night.
In a series of throws, he fouled on two attempts, and his best result of the day came on his second throw, which measured at 83.80m. The series of throws was as follows: foul, 83.80m, 81.37m, foul, 80.74m, and 80.90m.
Remarkably, this marked the first time in the season that Chopra recorded a throw below 85m. He had qualified for the DL Finals in the third position and had previously won the 2022 DL Finals in Zurich with an impressive throw of 88.44m.
It’s noteworthy that no competitor managed to reach the 85m mark due to the 25-degree Celsius temperature and 45% humidity. While other field events held simultaneously displayed varying wind speed readings, these conditions are not typically a concern for javelin throw.
The Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch emerged as the Diamond League champion for the third time with his best throw measuring 84.24m, achieved in his sixth and final attempt. He led the six-man field from the very beginning after his first-round effort of 84.01m.
Vadlejch, who had previously won bronze in the Budapest World Championships in August and silver in the Tokyo Olympics, following Chopra, had also secured the DL title in 2017 and 2018.
Finland’s Oliver Helander secured the third spot with his best throw measuring 83.74m, while two-time world champion Anderson Peters had a challenging season and finished last with a throw of 74.71m.
Vadlejch claimed the DL Trophy along with a prize money of $32,000, while Chopra received $12,000 for his second-place finish.
When asked about his impact on Indian athletics, Chopra expressed, “After winning the Olympic gold, Indians now believe that we can also win. I was there in Budapest for the World Championships, where I won gold, and this achievement will undoubtedly bring about positive changes in Indian athletics.” It’s noteworthy that this event took place at the same venue where Chopra had secured second place in the 2022 World Championships.
Chopra, who boasts a personal best throw of 89.94m and a season’s best of 88.77m, had earlier won two individual DL meetings in Doha on May 5 and Lausanne on June 30 before making history with his gold in the World Championships last month. He became only the third javelin thrower in history to hold both Olympic and World Championships titles after winning the world title in Budapest with a throw of 88.17m.
Shortly after his World Championships victory, Chopra participated in the Zurich DL leg on August 31, where he finished second to Vadlejch, who had bested him in their last two encounters.
Chopra’s next destination is the Hangzhou Asian Games, scheduled to begin later this month, where he will aim to defend the gold medal he secured in 2018 in Indonesia. Reflecting on this upcoming challenge, he said, “I still have one more competition, the Asian Games in China. In big competitions, it’s all about mindset; we don’t need to prepare ourselves. When we step into the stadium, our minds are ready, and our bodies are prepared for the competition.”
He also spoke about his camaraderie with his competitors, stating, “I really enjoy competing with these guys; we’re all good friends, and we compete in a very sportsmanlike manner.”