While Neeraj Chopra was injured, his rivals were going strong

Andrew Amsan
·3-min read

Neeraj Chopra returned to the athletics circuit after a break of almost one and half years. (File Photo)

India’s star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra returned to the athletics circuit in style after a break of almost one and half years with a huge throw in South Africa last week which also earned him a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. At the ACNW League Meeting in Potchefstroom last week, his first competition since October 2018, he managed a throw of 87.86m (Olympic qualifying mark- 85m).

It is the biggest throw in the world this season so far but seeing this throw in isolation would give us an unfair idea. The 2020 athletics season has just begun with most events slated to start off around March.

Neeraj’s huge throw would have boosted his confidence but he too knows consistency is key and maintaining form to peak at the right moment is what really counts.

During Neeraj’s long break, his competitors, the Germans primarily, have been slogging it out in various meets. In 2019 alone, six throws of over 88 metres were made, including two 90 plus hurls.

Here’s look at what the world top-4 have been up to while Neeraj was out:

Magnus Kirt - Estonia

Season-best- 90.61

The world leader has set an extremely high bar for himself. Since October 2018, he has managed to hit an 85m plus throw in 15 out of 16 competitions he took part in. The 2019 World Championship silver medallist hit the 90m mark twice in 2019. He staved off a strong field, including Germany's Andreas Hofmann, at the 2019 IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich to take the top honours with a distance of 89.13m.

Chao-Tsun Cheng - Chinese Taipei

Season-best- 89.05m

The 26-year-old, who lost the gold to Kirt in Zurich by a matter of centimetres, has made five 85m plus throws since last year. The Asian record holder shocked Germans Andreas Hofmann Thomas Roehler and Estonia's Magnus Kirt at the Birmingham Diamond League last year, taking home gold with a best throw of 87.75m.

READ | Shiv Khera’s book Jeet Aapki and meditation helped Neeraj Chopra during tough times

Andreas Hofmann - Germany

Season-best - 89.65m

Hoffmann, who has a personal best of 92.06m, has not been able to breach the 90m mark since 2019. In the 2018 season, the 26-year-old hit an astonishing four 90 plus throws. On paper, it may seem like Hofmann’s performance going on a downward spiral but considering it was a year preceding the Olympics, the German could be saving his best. He made two 89m plus metres though, keeping him on the top half of the world rankings.

Johannes Vetter - Germany

Season-best- 90.03m

Vetter took part in eight competitions last season, half of what world leader Kirt did in 2018. The German giant, who has the second-best all-time throw of 94.44m, has been one of the most consistent throwers in recent times. In his eight outings last season, he managed a best throw of over 85m on six occasions, including one 90 plus and two 89m plus throws. The London World Champion, like Hofmann, will be aiming to peak at the right time.

Note: Season-best includes 2019.