‘I didn’t say anything then, now I am sad for him’: Neeraj Chopra on Johannes Vetter’s early exit

Neeraj Chopra said after his Javelin gold medal that he is disappointed for Johannes Vetter, the World Number 1, who prematurely bowed out of the final.

Gold medallist Neeraj Chopra said he let his javelin do the talking for him in reply to German World No. 1 Johannes Vetter saying that the Indian did not stand a chance to beat him.

Neeraj said after the Javelin final on Saturday, “People were telling me what Vetter had said about me, I didn’t want to say anything about it then. But in the Olympics, world rankings do not matter that much. All that matters is whose day it is, who comes up with his best that day. Honestly, I am sad for him now, because he was eliminated early in the final. But sports is like that, even greats do not win everyday.”

Vetter, who had said he would easily throw over 90 metres in the final, finished 9th at the end of three attempts — thus suffering an early elimination from the final, with a best throw of 82.52. He had said last month: “I am looking to throw over 90m in Tokyo, so it will be tough for Neeraj to beat me.”

Neeraj won the gold medal with a throw of 87.58 in his second attempt, more than five metres ahead of the 9th-placed Vetter.

“Vetter had been in roaring form this year. I do not know what went wrong for him at the Olympics. Maybe he had taken part in too many international competitions before the Olympics,” said Neeraj, who also added that his sole focus for the last two years has been on the Tokyo Olympics.

READ | Neeraj Chopra soars to end generations of heartache

“Or he may have been under pressure, I don’t know. If your first throw is good, all the other athletes are automatically under pressure,” he said. In the final, his first attempt of 87.03 put Neeraj at the top of the standings at the outset. He ended up being in the lead throughout the six attempts, taking the gold medal unthreatened.

Neeraj and Vetter first met in 2018 at Offenburg in Germany when both trained at the same facility. Since then, the two have forged a bond beyond Athletics as well, but Vetter would not have been expecting his Indian friend to beat him at the Olympics.

“For me, throwing 90m is like riding a bike. Normal. Really easy… But sometimes, some newcomers are coming up in such big competitions. Sometimes, some big guys are losing,” he had said before the qualification round.

Vetter had won a gold and a bronze in 2017 and 2019 World Championships respectively, but the 28-year-old remains without an Olympic medal. He has crossed the 90m-mark, the hallowed mark in Javelin, a jaw-dropping 17 times, seven this year. His monstrous 97.76m effort last September in Poland was the longest javelin throw for more than two decades.

However, at the Olympics final on Saturday, Vetter turned out to be the ‘big guy’ who lost, and Neeraj the ‘newcomer’ who ended generations of wait for India.

“He (Neeraj) is a really talented guy, always really friendly. I am happy for him,” Vetter said on Saturday.

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