Devendra Jhajharia, India's other javelin legend, hails Neeraj Chopra's feat | Tokyo Olympics News


NEW DELHI: In 2003, India’s newest sporting sensation, Neeraj Chopra would have been doing the same things that most six-year-old kids do – making excuses to skip school, living a fun-filled, carefree life and playing to his heart’s content.
During the same time, however, some 4,119 miles away from Panipat, another young Indian javelin-thrower, Devendra Jhajharia, albeit differently-abled, was scripting the country’s and his own success story in London.
He launched the metallic spear to a distance of 59.77m to not only clinch a historic gold at the British Open Para Athletics Championships but also set a new world record. A year later, at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, he became India’s first track and field gold medallist at the Paralympic Games, only the second ever after Murlikant Petkar.
Jhajharia shattered his own world record with a throw of 62.15m to clinch gold in style.
Jhajharia, 12 years later, again etched his name in the history books after winning a second Paralympics gold competing in F46 javelin throw event at Rio 2016. His splendid feat made him the first Indian Paralympian to clinch two gold medals at the Paralympics, that too with a world record throw of 63.97m, a feat still to be bettered.
Jhajharia, now 40, is ready for a hat-trick of gold at the Games, with the Tokyo Paralympics scheduled from August 24 to September 5.
The one-armed javelin thrower, who had to get his left arm amputated at the age of eight after he accidentally touched a live electric cable, will be participating in his third Paralympics in a decorated career spanning nearly two decades.
Hailing from Rajasthan’s Churu district, Jhajharia would be looking for inspiration from Neeraj’s defining moment in Indian athletics. He has declared that he would be matching Neeraj’s feat on August 30 in Tokyo, when the F46 javelin throw final will be staged at the same Olympic stadium venue.
“What Neeraj has achieved is unbelievable. Participating in your first Olympics and coming back with a gold is something exceptional, the stuff of legends. Definitely, his performance has instilled a new confidence in me, that I can also achieve the same results. His feat will certainly inspire me to come back with a third Paralympics gold from Tokyo,” said Jhajharia.
“I will be competing at the same venue where Neeraj accomplished his feat. I am targeting to throw the javelin in the range between 67m and 69m to break my own world record. I am feeling great fitness-wise and the preparations are heading in the right direction,” Jhajharia told TOI over phone from his training base at the SAI’s Gandhinagar centre in Gujarat.
It’s a coincidence that both Jhajharia and Neeraj were 23 when they won their first Paralympics & Olympics gold respectively – Jhajharia (Athens 2004) and Neeraj (Tokyo 2020).
“We regularly speak to each other about our game. We have also met four-five times during sports functions. He would always tell me ‘bhai saab, aap to laga doge throw’ (brother, you will achieve the desired distance) and age is just a number for me. He is very respectful towards me.
“I’ll, on my part, share my experiences with him. I’ll tell him that ‘your performance can go up and down but what’s important is to maintain the same intensity and passion’. This is what will take Neeraj to greater heights,” he said.
Jhajharia exuded confidence that Neeraj’s feat will inspire youngsters in India to think beyond cricket as a sports career option.
“You will see a budding cricketer in every nook and corner of the country. But I am confident that you will also now see kids holding a javelin in their hands.”
Jhajharia, the first Paralympian to be honoured with Padma Shri in 2021, however, rued the fact that the differently-abled athletes still struggle to find recognition among masses.
“In European nations, there’s so much popularity for para sports and its athletes, especially for the wheelchair athletes. The amount of respect and recognition is unimaginable. In India, we struggle with lack of awareness about Paralympics. Things have changed for para-athletes in terms of government and monetary support, but more needs to be done.
“I still remember when I had gone to participate at the Athens Paralympics, no one except my father had come to see me off at the airport. After I came back with the gold, my father was the only person standing outside the airport to receive me. I had even travelled to Athens spending from my own pocket,” he rued.





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