Chopra explains rules, says javelins in rack for everyone
India’s track and field Olympics gold winner says his remarks about Pak thrower Nadeem is being used as propaganda
Tokyo 2020 Olympics gold medallist Neeraj Chopra strongly rejected a controversy that had been created around his remarks about Pakistani thrower Arshad Nadeem using his javelin during the finals of the Games, calling it “propaganda aimed at pushing a dirty agenda” that was being furthered by people who did not understand the sporting sprit.
In multiple posts on Twitter — in English and Hindi, and in a video — Chopra pointed to the rules of international competitions where athletes are allowed to use any javelin from a common pool and said, “I would request everyone to please not use me and my comments as a medium to further your vested interests and propaganda. Sports teaches us to be together and we all javelin throwers share very good relations and please do not say something that we feel bad about. I am extremely disappointed to see some of the reactions from the public on my recent comment.”
In a recent interview, the 23-year-old army man, India’s first track & field Olympic medallist, said that he was searching for his javelin before his first throw during the Olympic final on August 7 and found Nadeem, who had also made the 12-man final, holding it.
“‘Bhai give this javelin to me, I have to throw it.’ That’s why you must have seen I took my first throw hurriedly,” Chopra was quoted as saying.
Soon after, a controversy erupted, insinuating that Nadeem was “stealing” the javelin or trying to “sabotage” Chopra’s throw and the Pakistani thrower was the subject of online abuse.
“My comment that I had to get my javelin from Arshad Nadeem before my first throw has been made into a big issue,” Chopra said in his video on Twitter. “Actually, it’s a very simple thing — we keep our personal javelins in a common pool and all throwers can use it, that’s the rule. There’s nothing wrong that he was preparing with that javelin for his throw and that I asked for it. I am very sad that my words are being used to make this into a big issue.”
In a post in Hindi, he added: “Don’t use my words as a medium to push forward your dirty agenda.”
According to World Athletics rules for track & field, implements are provided by the organisers, though athletes are also free to “use their own personal implements or those provided by a supplier provided that such implements are World Athletics certified, checked and marked as approved by the organisers before the competition”.
Once a personal implement — in this case Chopra’s Valhalla javelin, made by Swedish company Nordic Sport — is cleared for competition, it is put in a common pool “and made available to all athletes”.
Nadeem, who started his sporting career as a cricketer, became Pakistan’s first track & field athlete to compete in an Olympic final, and finished fifth in the event in Tokyo.
Nadeem and Chopra have known each other for some time now, and shared the podium at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, where Chopra won gold with a then national record throw of 88.06 metres and Nadeem won the bronze. Nadeem has spoken about how Chopra is an inspiration to him.
At Tokyo, the two throwers travelled in the same bus to the Olympic Stadium on the day of the final. On the way, they shared fond memories from the 2018 Asian Games.
Nadeem showed Chopra their picture from the Asian Games podium, where the two, draped in their national flags, were shaking hands.
“He told me that the picture is famous in Pakistan and people tell him that we are like Abdul Khaliq and Milkha Singh,” Chopra said after winning the gold.
Singh and Pakistani sprinter Khaliq shared a legendary rivalry on the track, and friendship off it, in the 1950s and 1960s.
The camaraderie among the world’s best throwers in Tokyo was undeniable.
On August 4, on the qualification day for javelin, Chopra made the cut for the final with his very first throw — a massive 86.65m. When Chopra came out to speak to reporters, Germany’s Johannes Vetter, the overwhelming favourite to win gold coming into the competition, was struggling to qualify.
Chopra was worried. “Don’t know what’s happening to him today,” he said. “But I think he’ll make it in the next throw.”
The qualification day was hot and humid in Tokyo and Chopra said Vetter had told him that it must be easy for him, being from India.
“I told him since I am also coming from Europe to Tokyo, it’s equally difficult for me to adapt,” Chopra said with a laugh at the time.