Hangzhou:World and Olympic javelin throw champion Neeraj Chopra is a man of the big stage. He produces his best efforts when the world is looking for him.
On Wednesday, at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, Chopra came up with his biggest throw of the season, a monster 88.88 metres that ensured his numero uno status in the Continent.
Chopra won the javelin throw competition at Hangzhou with his season's effort and the bonus for India was that Kishore Kumar Jena produced his personal best of 87.54 to claim the silver medal, making it a 1-2 for India on the podium. Japan's Roderick Genki Dean took the bronze medal with an 82.68m. The rest of the field failed to cross the 80m mark.
But the event started on a dramatic note, as the officials failed to measure Chopra's throw and the 25-year-old had to make another attempt to start his campaign.
"I made my first throw and was waiting for the distance to come on the board. But it did not. When I inquired with the judges, they said there was a technical delay and the instrument failed to measure my throw. I also tried checking it on the video but they could not find the mark," said Neeraj after the final.
"The officials explained that the next participant had made his attempt early and therefore they could find my mark. It was strange.
"They said the only thing they could do was to let me make my first throw again. As other participants were waiting and the competition was held up, I agreed to their suggestion and made my first throw again," said Neeraj Chopra.
"That was a very good throw, a big one," he added.
Chopra thus started with a throw of 82.38m and followed it up with 84.49 on his second. He fouled his third turn but then annihilated the competition with the big one -- 88.88 which was a centimetre longer than the 88.17 he produced to win the World Championship gold in Budapest a few weeks back.
Chopra, the defending champion who won the gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia with a throw of 88.06, said he was happy to end his season with a gold medal.
While the focus was on Chopra, Kishore Kumar Jena surprised everyone by winning the silver.
The opportunity was for him to take advantage of the absence of Pakistan's Arshad Nadeem, the 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who pulled out on the eve of the competition with an injury.
Nadeem had crossed the 90m mark in Birmingham last year and was expected to go head-to-head with Chopra as he did in finishing second in the World Championship in Budapest.
But that was not to be and Jena grabbed the opportunity with both hands as he came up with his personal best of 87.54 with his fourth throw and sealed the second place behind Chopra. He did try to throw it further but fouled on his last two attempts.
"I am very happy for Jena," said Neeraj Chopra. "When he made that 87.54 throw I went and hugged him. I had hugged him before the start of the event but once you get into competition mode, you try to do your own things. But I am very, very happy for Jena," said Chopra.
Jena was ecstatic that he managed to produce his personal best so late in the season. He had finished a creditable fifth in the World Championships in Budapest in his maiden entry in the final.