'He’s like Dennis Lillee for javelin throw': When Neeraj Chopra's ex-coach compared him with Australia cricket legend

Updated on Jul 24, 2022 03:40 PM IST

Long before the 24-year-old boy became one of India's most decorated athlete, his former coach Gary Calvert had predicted great many things for the Indians while comparing him to Australia cricketer legend Dennis Lillee.

Dennis Lillee; Neeraj Chopra
Dennis Lillee; Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra on Sunday added yet another feather to his cap as the Tokyo Olympic champion bagged a historic silver in the men's javelin final of the World Athletics Championships in Oregon. Scripting a comeback from the fifth position after three rounds of throws in the final, Chopra bounced back to medal contention with a massive throw of 88.13m in his fourth attempt before assuring himself a silver. But long before the 24-year-old boy became one of India's most decorated athlete, his former coach Gary Calvert had predicted great many things for the Indians while comparing him to Australia cricketer legend Dennis Lillee.

Calvert had mentored Chopra to a historic gold in the 2016 U20 World Championship. It was followed by a gold each in the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships, 2018 Commonwealth Games, 2018 Asian Games and the Tokyo Olympics.

ALSO READ: History-maker Neeraj Chopra reveals touching conversation with Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem after World Championships final

But Calvert's words came back in 2018, in an interview with the Indian Express, three years before his historic Olympic gold and four years before his achievement at the Worlds.

"If you think of it as cricket, how many fast bowlers has India ever produced that you would say, ‘ hey, he’s really fast.’ Maybe a couple, but even in cricket, India does not produce great fast bowlers like Imran Khan. There have been some really fast bowlers from Pakistan and even Sri Lanka but India has not produced the really quick ones the West Indies or Australia do. Neeraj is like that. He’s like Dennis Lillee from Australia for javelin throw in India," he had said.

Calvert, who passed away shortly after this interview in 2018, had continued his comparison between fast bowlers and javelin throwers.

"If you think of the fastest bowlers in cricket. If you can go to the demon bowlers of Andy Roberts and Joel Garners and all these really, really quick bowlers. Holding is a good example. He was a 400m runner but he kept his way back. So in the javelin, if you can delay the arm and not use it…..There’s only a maximum distance you can throw with the arm but if you delay, you get this almighty delay in the end. Neeraj has got that whip. Some of the other throwers doing well in the last year or so don’t have the same feel that Neeraj has. With Neeraj throwing like that, the others are trying to follow him."

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