Asian Games 2018: Neeraj Chopra leads India charge in field events
Neeraj Chopra is among the strongest Indian contenders for an athletics medal at the 2018 Asian Games. The 20-year-old came into limelight with his 2016 World Under-20 gold medal in javelin throw, a feat he accomplished with a junior world record.
Now, he is the reigning Commonwealth Games champion after clinching gold with a throw of 86.47 metres in Gold Coast. However, his national record throw of 87.3 metres at the IAAF Diamond League in Doha in May could only place him fourth in the standings, representing the challenge at his hands when it comes to competing in a more rarefied field. Jakarta will be another big test for the youngster.
Taiwan’s Cheng Chao-tsun holds the Asian record with 91.36 metres and he will provide a daunting challenge for Chopra but apart from Cheng, the 20-year-old will be expected to beat the rest of the field and claim an assured medal in Jakarta.
Shivpal Singh is another Indian in the fray in the javelin throw but his best is well below the medal-winning standard at the Asiad. Barring an exceptional day at the office, Shivpal is unlikely to give Chopra company on the podium.
Triple jumper Arpinder Singh has a personal best of 17.17 metres, a distance that would have been good enough for the silver in Incheon four years ago. Arpinder’s best came in Lucknow in 2014, and now at 25, as he reaches his prime a similar showing in Jakarta will likely put him on the podium.
In the women’s section, Neena Varakil and Nayana James will be the Indian representatives in the long jump. The latter has a PB of 6.55 metres while the former has jumped 6.66 metres, making them strong contenders for gold, considering Maria Natalia Londa of Indonesia took home the gold with 6.55 metres in Incheon.
Seema Punia is the defending champion in discus throw. At 34, she won her fourth Commonwealth Games medal when she claimed silver in Gold Coast in April and will be keen to defy father time for one last hurrah at the Asian Games.
Annu Rani, bronze medallist from 2014, will be vying for another medal in javelin throw.
In the combined events, India will not have a representative in decathlon. However, Purnima Hembram and Swapna Barman will be competing in heptathlon. Although podium finish from either is unlikely.
India sit third in the athletics all-time medals tally at the Asian Games. In Incheon, however, they finished sixth with a haul of 13 medals, including two golds. Expectations of a similar haul in Jakarta won’t be amiss.