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Spearheading India’s challenge

Patiala : Neeraj Chopra is one throw away from levelling the legendary Milkha Singh’s record of winning individual gold medals at the two different quadrennial events — Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. After clinching the historic gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games with an effort of 86.47m, the 20-year-old is well on course to match Milkha’s feat in the upcoming Jakarta Asian Games. Milkha won the 400m gold in the Tokyo Asian Games in 1958 after winning the gold at the Cardiff Commonwealth Games in the same year. The Flying Singh also won the gold in the Jakarta Asian Games in 1962. In just fourth year of his career, the javelin thrower from Khandra village in Sonepat has taken the sport in India to new heights. Experts believe that it is his raw talent that has worked wonders but Chopra thinks focus and hard work has made all the difference. “It is my focus which has made me what I am today. To stay focused, one has to be down to earth so as to keep distractions away,” he said.
Medal bracket
In the Incheon Asian Games in 2014, Rajinder Singh’s best effort of 73.43m was not good enough for the Indian to finish in the top-10. But this time, experts are tipping Chopra as the firm favourite to win the gold in Jakarta. In Asia, Chopra is currently on top of the IAAF World Rankings. Chopra’s season-best throw of 87.43m in Doha in May make his medal hopes brighter. Chopra recently won the gold with a throw of 85.17m at the Sotteville Athletics Meet in France.
The perfect combo
Chopra has been taking big strides under India’s foreign coach Uwe Honn of Germany. It was due to Honn’s initiative that Chopra was exempted from the Asian Qualifier in Guwahati, as the coach did not want an interruption in his training programme before the Asian Games.
Since May, Chopra has been training in Finland under the watchful eyes of Honn, and their combo seems to be clicking.
Seema faces tough China
Discus thrower Seema Antil, who won the gold at the Incheon Asian Games, will be eyeing to make history by winning the gold in Jakarta. Seema has undergone a rigorous training in the USA in the run-up to the Games. It will be interesting to see how Seema performs as the Haryana thrower has to outdo her personal best of 64.84m to grab a place in the top-three. Stiff competition is expected from Yang Chen of China, who has recorded a throw of 67.03m recently. Seema said, “It is all about handling the pressure and performing at the right time.”
Arpinder hopeful of a medal
Triple jumper Arpinder Singh is counting on his year’s best effort of 17.09m, at the Inter-State meet in Guwahati, for a psychological boost ahead of the Games. Arpinder is ranked third among the Asian nations. In the recent years, Arpinder has trained under coach Bedros of Romania and then under coach Sanjay Rai in Thiruvananthapuram. The triple jumper has changed his hop and bounding technique, which seems to be helping him a lot.

About Jatin Kamboj