Daily Briefing: Neeraj Chopra wins India’s first athletics medal at Olympics; Single-dose J&J vaccine cleared

The single-shot vaccine, developed by J&J subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, has been shown to be 85 per cent effective in preventing severe disease in phase 3 human clinical trials.

Good morning, 

India at the Olympics 

Neeraj Chopra didn’t even give it a second glance. The moment he released the javelin, he was so sure it would at least be his personal best that he turned to his coaches, and lifted his arms to celebrate. However, it wasn’t his personal best. The throw, which travelled 87.58 m, made him an Olympic champion. 

Although Neeraj Chopra’s javelin gold made sure India will leave Tokyo with a record medal haul — with one gold, two silver and four bronzes —  that’s just one more than last time. However, what is history-making is that never ever, since the Dhyan Chand era, has India dominated an Olympics discipline the way 23-year-old Neeraj Chopra did on Saturday. For India, Tokyo 2020’s biggest takeaway came on Saturday – the gold in a mainstream mass-sport.

Aditi Ashok strutted out on the 18th green as though she was always meant to be there. However, as destiny would have it, Ashok’s hopes of a podium was in the hands of New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and she didn’t miss. Ashok’s disappointment was natural but the fact that it went down to the last shot on the final hole of the deciding day, staying in the mix right until the end is creditworthy in itself.

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As the Czech Jakub Vadlejch’s final throw went awfully wide and landed way off Neeraj Chopra’s mark of 87.58 metres, Khandra, a sketchy village near Panipat, far away from Tokyo, went delirious with joy. From being a red balloon on Google Maps, the village transported itself on to the Olympics map. Neeraj’s mother Saroj, a woman of few words, said she had never seen such fanfare in the village.

Early Friday morning, as the Indian women’s hockey team walked onto the astroturf at the Oi National Stadium in Tokyo for their semifinal match against Great Britain, thousands of kilometres away, people trickled into a hall and took their place on a rug in front of a projector. Hesal, a tribal village in Khunti district of Jharkhand, seems a long way from even the state capital. Yet, the tribal village has sent at least 12 hockey players to the state and national teams. Nikki Pradhan, the defender in the Dream 16 team that played in Tokyo, grew up here, playing with bamboo balls and sticks. 

Must Read 

A new vaccine has been added to India’s nationwide inoculation efforts — American pharma giant Johnson and Johnson’s single-dose shot. It has been shown to be 85 per cent effective in preventing severe disease in phase 3 human clinical trials. This is the second Covid-19 vaccine, after Moderna, to be granted emergency use authorisation through the fast-track approval route by the Indian drug regulator.

‘Pyari Pahadan’, a nondescript restaurant, which recently opened in Dehradun, has cooked up a storm over the last week. Many have argued that the seemingly innocent  name of the restaurant has insulted both the hill people and “matrashakti (woman power)”. One of the protestors, who allegedly assaulted the owner of the restaurant, has been arrested. 

Given his role in making Mizoram the North East’s most peaceful state, it is difficult to imagine that Chief Minister Zoramthanga was once an armed insurgent. But the last fortnight has been far from peaceful. In dealing with the crisis, he is showing shades of the old Zoramthanga — the college graduate-turned-MNF rebel, who joined the armed insurgency, rose to second only in stature to the legendary Laldenga, and survived in the bush for 20 years.

Economies can be recovered. Closed businesses can be reopened. Lost jobs can come back and incomes can be restored. P Chidambaram writes about the damage done by the pandemic that goes beyond the economy: “India is doing worse than any of the other G-20 countries in vaccinating the adult population — only 10,81,27,846 people have received two doses of the vaccine against the target of 95-100 crore.” 

And Finally 

For PV Sindhu, the first woman from India to win two individual Olympic medals, it’s all about the action, erasing the past and living in the moment. Her secret to success on the badminton court is remembering, unfailingly, to forget. Win or lose; rinse, don’t remember, don’t repeat. She often uses “best present”, a term of her own invention, to refer to an original tense that means living only in that moment, which is an unburdened, untangled, isolated few minutes before a rally.

Until tomorrow, 
Rahel Philipose and Rounak Bagchi

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