Neeraj Chopra scripted another glorious chapter by becoming the first-ever Indian to secure a gold in the World Athletics Championships in Budapest on Sunday. It was Neeraj’s second and India’s third medal after long jumper Anju Bobby George opened the account in 2003. Neeraj, the first Indian Olympic champion athlete, hurled the javelin to 88.17m in his second attempt to achieve the crown in a highly competitive field, also comprising Commonwealth Games champion Arshad Nadeem, who took the silver, the first-ever Worlds medal for Pakistan, with 87.82m. Neeraj, who recorded his season best 88.77m in the qualification round, continued his unbeaten streak this year to not only improve upon his 2022 Worlds silver in Eugene but also become the third athlete after Jan Zelezny and Andreas Thorkildsen to win the World and Olympics gold. He formally led India’s javelin revolution at a global stage as compatriots, Kishore Jena (84.77m) and D.P. Manu (84.14m), took fifth and sixth spots. Neeraj’s feat made India one of the three countries which earned their maiden yellow metal. The Indian men’s 4x400m relay team members (Muhammed Anas, Amoj Jacob, Muhammed Ajmal and Rajesh Ramesh) ran out of their skin to create a new Asian record (2:59.05) and enter the final. Ultimately, they finished fifth. Woman steeplechaser Parul Chaudhary set a new national mark of 9:15.31.
However, the long jumpers, triple jumpers, hurdler Jyothi Yarraji and steeplechaser Avinash Sable’s below par show brought disappointment. Even though leading athletes have been caught for doping this year, Neeraj, Chaudhary and the relay team’s achievements will encourage the Indians for the Asian Games and 2024 Olympics. The mediocre performance of several athletes is a matter of concern for the Athletics Federation of India and the Sports Ministry and calls for an appraisal of the training. The World Championships witnessed several spectacular performances, including the U.S. 4x400m mixed relay team’s world record. While the U.S. continued to dominate despite a reduced tally of 29 medals, including 12 gold, Canada improved to claim six, including four gold. With China not getting a single title, Asia’s gold count dipped from five to three. U.S. sprinter Noah Lyles became the first male after Usain Bolt to win the 100m, 200m and men’s 4x100m relay titles, Kenyan superstar Faith Kipyegon won a 1500m and 5000m double and Spaniard Alvaro Martin and Maria Perez swept the race walks, coinciding with the Chinese and Japanese walkers’ failure, to make the edition exciting. The World Athletics would do well to promote track and field sport across the globe.