In one of the most heartening news for Indian athletics, Haryana’s 18-year old Neeraj Chopra shattered the world under-20 record in men’s javelin at IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Unfortunately, Chopra could not be included in India’s Olympic squad but he has time on his side. The Indian fans would expect him to bring laurels in the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Chopra’s stupendous 86.48-meter hurl of the spear came on the penultimate day and instantly grabbed the global athletic headlines. In London’s Anniversary Games, of which 10th Diamond League was a part, Usain Bolt flashed like a streak of lightning in 200m to announce his Rio intentions. The fastest man on earth didn’t participate in 100m sprint and was not satisfied with his 19.89s first place in 200m. But he still beat the second-placed Panamanian Alonso Edwards by 0.15s. Besides Chopra and Bolt’s performances, another world record was created last week in London. US women’s hurdler Kendra Harrison, who couldn’t qualify for Rio; had the satisfaction of breaking the women’s 100m hurdles long-standing world record by finishing in 12.20 seconds. The two major athletic events at Bydgoszcz and London were the last before the top athletes assemble at Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Games in less than two weeks’ time.
With one massive throw of the javelin, Neeraj Chopra of India has cornered top headlines in global athletic media. Until Saturday evening, there were two different athletes from two different countries, who separately held men’s U-20 world record and World Championship title. Chopra’s amazing feat in Bydgoszcz’s IAAF World U20 Championships has changed all that. Now both world record and the World Championship in U-20 category come to India. As India’s representative in February’s South Asian Games, Chopra had thrown the javelin through 82.23 meters and since then, he has led the global list of U-20 throwers. When the finals began on Saturday evening, Chopra opened his first round with an impressive hurl of 79.66m. The Indian had not breached the 80m mark since February 2016 but he produced a bombastic throw in his second attempt. The spear landed nearly 2 meters beyond Latvian Zigismunds Sirmais’ 5-year-old world record of 84.69m. The stunning 86.48m mark simply destroyed the field on that instant. The minimum qualification mark for Rio Olympics was set at 83m and the July 11 deadline has already passed. That means Chopra is missing the Rio Games but his achievement on Saturday was a red-letter day for Indian athletics since it brought the first ever gold medal from an IAAF World U20 Championship. For the past two months, Chopra had been training at Spala’s Olympic Training Centre in Poland under Australian coach Garry Calvert, who has honed the Indian’s skills in javelin.
On Friday night at London’s Anniversary Games, Jamaican super-sprinter Usain Bolt produced an electric run to win 200m in style. There have been apprehensions on his performance after the hamstring tear, which forced him out of the Jamaican Olympic trials, but Bolt showed no signs of the injury in winning the event in 19.89 seconds. Panama’s Alonso Edwards was second in 20.04 and GBR’s Adam Gemili third in 20.07. Olympic and world record holder Bolt himself was not pleased with his performance. That shows his penchant for more as he prepares to travel to Brazil very soon for the Rio Games. The performance in London left no doubt about the Jamaican’s intention of seizing the unprecedented Olympic treble in August this year. Another athletic celebrity, GBR’s Mo Farah produced a world-lead in 5000m by winning with a huge margin in 12:59.29 with Farah’s compatriot Andrew Butchart taking the second place far behind in 13:14.85.
Kendra Harrison of USA was a center of attraction for breaking the women’s 100m hurdles world record. For 28 years, the 100m hurdles record of 12.21s has been standing in the name of Bulgaria’s Yordanka Donkova. On Friday, Harrison took 0.01s off Donkova’s record to become the new world-record holder. In an unfortunate incident, Harrison could not make the Olympic cut during US Olympic trials but her latest achievement would have brought a huge satisfaction to the athlete. That also brought the 4th Diamond Race win for the American.
Several top global athletes in other track-and-field events; also showed their levels of Rio preparation with impressive performances. Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic recorded her fifth Diamond Race win with a huge 69.94m discus throw; China’s Gao Xinglong won men’s long jump with an 8.11m leap; USA’s Joe Kovacs was men’s shot put winner with a 22.04m hurl; Grenadian Katerina Stefanidi cleared 4.80m to win women’s Pole Vault; GBR’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson won women’s long jump with a 6.84m leap; Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers clocked 22.13 to win women’s 200m; Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie won men’s pole vault by clearing 5.90m; Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi won women’s 3000m steeplechase in 9:21.35; USA’s Dalilah Muhammad won women’s 400m hurdles in 53.88; Kenyan Silas Kiplagat took the annual Emsley Carr Mile in 3:53.04; GBR’s Laura Muir won women’s 1500m in 3:57.49; Spain’s Ruth Beitia took the long jump with 1.98 and USA’s Christian Taylor won men’s triple jump with a leap of 17.78 meters.