Two other Indians, Kishore Jena and DP Manu also impressed at the big stage. Although they didn’t get onto the podium, Jena with a throw of 84.77m (his personal best) finished fifth, while Manu came sixth with his best throw being 84.14m.
The Worlds gold was the one waiting to be ticked in Neeraj’s golden set, and he did it in style. In fact, the second throw was hurled a few metres behind the foul line, and there was scope to add a few more. The 25-year-old Neeraj now has gold medals in Olympics (Tokyo in 2021), Asian Games (2018) and Commonwealth Games (2018), U-20 World Championships (2016), besides the Diamond League title last year.
Besides Neeraj getting the inevitable, the drama and theatrics around the javelin throw final increased when Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem came up with 87.82m (his season’s best) in his third attempt.
It became an exciting, nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat India-Pakistan affair, being fought in a European country that had little connection with cricket. The September 2 India-Pakistan Asia Cup clash was way away from everyone’s mind. The Pakistani had to his credit a 90-metre plus throw at the Commonwealth Games last year and Neeraj wasn’t feeling safe anymore.
The positions below Neeraj and Nadeem kept changing as Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch moved into the third place with an 86.67m throw in his fifth attempt, putting Germany’s Julian Weber to the fourth spot. Neeraj came up with 86.32m, 84.64m and 87.73m in his third, fourth and fifth attempts. Nadeem managed 87.15m in his fourth and his fifth was a foul throw.
The excitement was palpable and it was a throwback to all the historic India-Pakistan hockey and cricket matches, boiling down to the last over, to the last five minutes, and in this case to the final throws of both throwers. Nadeem was visibly under pressure in the final throw and threw his attempt nearly a five feet behind the foul line. Quite evidently, the result was an 81.86m throw.
With the gold assured, Neeraj clapped to the spectators present at the National Athletics Centre and rounded things off with an 83.98m throw. Interestingly, Neeraj began with a foul throw, but hit his straps in the second one which turned out to be the golden one.
In the end, as it stood, Jakub Vadlejch remained at the third position and got the bronze.
“I am used to having pressure on me in every competition that I take part in. But in big competitions like these (world championships) which come once in two or four years, I do feel a lot more responsibility to perform well. Every time there is only one thing to keep in mind and that is to give my 100 percent and stay focused,” Neeraj said.
“Along with my regular training, I often also engage in visualization, which is quite enjoyable for me. It helps me feel like I’m already there competing and creates a mental picture – it has become a part of my routine. That helps me in winning medals at tough international competitions.”