The gold medal performance by Neeraj Chopra in the javelin throw event in Tokyo Olympics has helped the track and field events gain popularity in Rajasthan.
At the Sawai Man Singh (SMS) Stadium in Jaipur, the biggest stadium in the state capital, one can witness large number of young, budding sportspersons turning up, keen to make a name for themselves.
Neeraj’s superlative performance has clearly helped these young, budding sportspersons gain immense confidence and hope that like him, even they can earn name, fame for themselves and get medals for the country by performing well at the international arena.
12-year-old Kunal feels he has age on his side. He has been practicing hard trying to perfect his javelin throw. Kunal has been turning up at the stadium everyday ever since news of Neeraj’s performance in Tokyo poured in earlier this month.
Kunal tells India Today that Chopra’s performance gave him the confidence that if he perseveres and continues improving his performance, with age on his side, he too can perhaps perform at the international level and earn medals for the country.
Several young boys have been turning up at the stadium wanting to participate in track and field events such as javelin throw, discus throw shot put, running etc.
“Earlier, not many people showed keenness on taking up javelin throw at a professional level but Neeraj’s exploits have really helped the sport gain popularity amongst young, budding sportspersons.”, Kunal says.
India Today saw Rajbeer, a young 17-year-old boy at the track, enamoured by Chopra’s gold medal winning performance in Tokyo.
A medium pace fast bowler, Rajbeer is keen to try his hand at javelin throw and to go through the trial. Rajbeer wants to take javelin as a sport as he feels that he has the upper body strength and good muscles and shoulder power that can help him become a good javelin thrower.
“I got inspired by Neeraj Chopra’s performance in Tokyo and now, even I wish to take up javelin throw as a sport. I have come over here to go through the trial. I had been a medium face fast bowler but I am now enamoured by javelin as a sport.”, 17-year-old Rajbeer says to India Today.
“I have faith in myself. Like Neeraj, I would all also want to perform at the international level. His performance has given sportspersons like me the confidence that even we can perform and get medals for the country,” he adds.
Several young, budding sportspersons, in the age group of 10 to 29, were seen lining up on the track inside the stadium for their turn to throw the javelin. The sport did not use to generate such excitement earlier. Some of them had disappointment written large on their face after being told that they were more suited to other sports than javelin.
Muscular and tall, 28-year-old Sunil Bishnoi, has been a professional who plays from the sports quota. He knows the inside out of javelin as a sport. Sunil feels that the tremendous performance by Neeraj Chopra in Tokyo Olympics will definitely help improve the infrastructure in Rajasthan when it comes to sports in general and track and field games in particular.
Sunil laments the lack of a professional coach who can teach the nuances of javelin as a sport to young aspirants wanting to take it up at professional level.
Marveling at the enhanced number of young athletes, sportspersons wanting to take javelin and turning up at the stadium, Bishnoi says, “Neeraj Chopra’s performance has really enhanced the popularity of javelin as a sport. People have been approaching everyday ever since his gold medal performance wanting to take up javelin at the professional level but it is also important to see whether they are suited for this sport or not. This sport requires upper body strength and power in the muscles to perform well.
India Today witnessed several young sports aspirants turning up at the stadium wanting to take up javelin, shotput, discus throw as a sport and inquiring about it in detail.
Several sportspersons, who had been practicing for months at the stadium, however, complained about the woefully inadequate sports infrastructure and facilities in Rajasthan.
Some others, however, expressed hope that with India’s performance at the Olympics, things will start looking upwards if the government comes forward to help augment sports facilities so that athletes and sportspersons can realize their true potential and bring laurels.