Doha: Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra began his Diamond League title defence with a comfortable win in the season-opening leg here on Friday, with a world-leading and fourth career-best effort.
The 25-year-old Chopra, who had pocketed the 2022 Diamond League Final trophy in Switzerland last September, beat a star-studded field with a best throw of 88.67m to begin his season in style.
Chopra hit his straps in his first attempt itself with a world-leading throw of 88.67m, which was his fourth career-best effort, to position himself on the top of the pile. He maintained the lead till the end to win the event in his second appearance at the Qatar Sports Club.
The superstar Indian, who had won a silver in the 2022 World Championships, had finished fourth with a best throw of 87.43m in his first appearance here in 2018.
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Silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch of Czech Republic went agonisingly close to Chopra’s best mark with a second-round throw of 88.63m, four centimeter short of the Indian’s effort.
Vadlejch had won silver in the Tokyo Olympics. He had also won a silver in the Doha Diamond League last year with a 90.88m throw.
Reigning world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who had won the event here last year with a monster throw of 93.07m, finished third with a modest best throw of 85.88m.
“It was a very hard win, but Im happy, It’s a really good start for me. I hope to come in the first place in the next competitions and to keep consistency during this season,” Chopra said after the win.
“It was challenging for all athletes, but I’m still satisfied with my result. It’s a great atmosphere. Today was challenging, next time I’ll do more throws.
“This season I’ll stay fit and consistent and I’ll try to do my best in next competitions. I plan to stay fit and do more than I can.
“Lot of people came to support me and they are really happy. Sometimes it’s really hard because we have a big country and people have hopes, and now more athletes from my country join me in the Diamond league and other competitions.
“I’m lucky people have faith in me, I feel really good. This Doha meeting is great, the first one every year.”
Chopra, who has a personal best of 89.94m, could not sustain the tempo of his first attempt as he could only send the spear to 86.04m and then to 85.47m before fouling his throw in the fourth. He managed 84.37m and 85.62m in his fifth and sixth attempts.
This was Chopra’s second win in a Diamond League Meeting. He became the first Indian to win a Diamond League Meeting in Lausanne last year.
The Doha meet, however, did not see any 90m-plus mark, which was much different from last year when Peters and Vadlejch had crossed the coveted distance. Chopra had even acknowledged the reputation of Doha giving 90m-plus throws during the pre-event press conference on Thursday.
In men’s triple jump, 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Eldhose Paul finished 10th with a disappointing performance of 15.84m in his first Diamond League appearance. He has a personal best of 16.99m.
Tokyo Olympic champion Pedro Pichardo of Portugal won the event with a best jump of 17.91m.
The Diamond League is track and field’s most prestigious series sitting in the top tier of World Athletics’ one-day competitions. The 2023 Diamond League comprises 13 meetings, starting with the Doha event leading up to the two-day Diamond League Final in Eugene, USA, on September 16-17.