Neeraj Chopra turned to sports to better his lifestyle. He ended up becoming India’s first Olympic gold medalist in track and field and changing his life forever.
The 23-year-old secured India’s first gold medal of the 2020 Olympics on Saturday, recording an 87.58-meter throw in the javelin. It wasn’t even Chopra’s personal best in the event, which is 88.07.
“In athletics it is the first time we have gold, so it’s a proud moment for me and my country,” he told reporters, per CNN. “In the qualification round I threw very well so I knew I could do better in the final. I didn’t know it would be gold but I am very happy.”
Chopra has come a long way to arrive to this moment. When he was just 13, according to the India Tribune, Chopra was under immense pressure from his large family to lose weight. He was a bit of a trouble maker and his father, Satish Kumar Chopra, wanted his son to be more disciplined.
When he saw javelin throwers on a trip with his uncle near his village, Chopra immediately fell in love with the sport.
“I come from a farming background,” said Chopra, who also underwent surgery on the elbow of his right throwing arm in 2019 that kept him sidelined for nearly a year.
“I was overweight and wanted to do some fitness training. Somehow I ended up in an academy, and picked up javelin throw. The love affair started and now I’m here with this medal standing in front of you.”