Neeraj Chopra looks to turn up heat in Doha

Doha, May 4

Competing for the first time as the Diamond League champion, star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra will be up against familiar nemesis in the first of the prestigious meetings tomorrow as he aims to begin season with a bang at the Doha leg.

The 25-year-old Chopra faces the likes of reigning world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada and Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch of Czech Republic in a star-studded field at the Qatar Sports Club.

Chopra, who has a personal best and a national record of 89.94 metres, had finished fourth with 87.43m in 2018 in the only other participation in the Doha Diamond League. He could not take part here last year due to the lack of “overall fitness and strength”.

Despite missing the event, Chopra went on a rampage last year. He became the first Indian Diamond League champion after winning the 2022 grand finale in Zurich in September. A month before that, he became the first Indian to win a Diamond League meeting in Lausanne.

Chopra last month said that he was feeling better “physically and technically”, but it will not be easy for him to win the top prize in the season-opener going by the incredible competition seen here last year.

Peters had produced the fifth-longest throw in history by hurling the spear to 93.07m, a mark outside German Thomas Rohler’s 93.90m, a meeting record set in 2017.

Vadlejch, who finished second behind Chopra in the Tokyo Olympics and won bronze in the 2022 World Championships, also recorded a personal of 90.88m here last year.

Alongside the decorated trio, the meeting will also have European champion Julian Weber of Germany (PB 89.54m), 2012 Olympics champion Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad amp; Tobago (PB 90.16m) and former world champion and 2016 Olympics silver medallist Julius Yego of Kenya (PB 92.72m).

“This is my first competition of the season. It’s always good when you have great competitors,” Chopra said at the pre-event press conference. “Vadlejch has already thrown 88.38m in Potchefstroom (South Africa, on April 18), so I think tomorrow I will see great competition. Also, Doha is famous for 90m throws.”

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