Another historic feat awaits Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra as he will start as favourite in the prestigious Diamond League Finals in Zurich on Thursday. Chopra had made a spectacular return from a one-month injury lay-off by winning the Lausanne leg of the Diamond League series and qualifying for the two-day finals. He became the first Indian to clinch a Diamond League meet title. He had missed the Birmingham Commonwealth Games (July 28 to August 8) due to a minor groin injury he had suffered during his silver-winning performance in the World Championships in USA in July.
The 24-year-old Indian superstar hit form immediately on return as he hurled the spear to 89.08m in his first attempt to seal the win in style in Lausanne on July 26. It looked like the injury had not happened at all as he produced his third career-best effort.
The youngster from Khandra village near Panipat in Haryana will be eyeing his maiden Diamond League Finals title. He had qualified for the Finals in 2017 and 2018 also, finishing seventh and fourth respectively.
The Diamond League encompasses 32 Diamond Disciplines, following a championship style model. Athletes earn points at the 13-series meet to qualify for the final of their respective disciplines.
The winner of each Diamond Discipline at the Final will be crowned ‘Diamond League Champion’.
The six-man javelin throw field here will be without world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who is recovering from injuries after he was assaulted inside a boat in his country last month. Chopra’s biggest rival will be the Olympic silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch of Czech Republic whom the Indian had beaten in Lausanne also.
Vadlejch, who has a 90m-plus throw to his name this season, produced a best of 85.88m in Lausanne. He made it to the Zurich Finals with most points — 27 — while Chopra qualified on fourth spot with 15 points. The top six in the Diamond League standings qualify for the Zurich Finals.
Since winning a gold in Tokyo Olympic Games in August last year, Chopra has competed against the 31-year-old Vadlejch four times this season and the Indian had finished ahead of the Czech on all the occasions.
Vadlejch was sixth and fourth when Chopra finished second in Paavo Nurmi Games (June 14) and Stockholm Diamond League (June 30). While Chopra won silver in World Championships in Eugene, Vadlejch clinched a bronze before the pair again clashed in Lausanne on July 26.
Vadlejch though is a more experienced campaigner then Chopra, having emerged Diamond League Final winner twice (2016 and 2017) and clinching two World Championships medals — a silver (2017) and a bronze (2022) — and a Tokyo Olympic Games silver. He has a season’s and personal best of 90.88m which he had registered while winning silver in the Doha leg of Diamond League in May.
The winner of each Diamond discipline at the Final will be awarded a Diamond Trophy, USD 30,000 prize money and a wild card for the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Chopra though has already qualified for the World Championships as his Lausanne leg winning throw breached the 85.20m qualifying mark.
Before Chopra, discus thrower Vikas Gowda is the only Indian to have finished in top-three in a Diamond League Meet. Gowda had finished second twice — in New York in 2012 and in Doha in 2014 — and third on two occasions — Shanghai and Eugene in 2015.
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