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As Neeraj Cruises to No. 2 in World Rankings, Is He Set to Be First Ever Top-Ranked Indian Athlete?

Neeraj Chopra of India in action
© REUTERS / KAI PFAFFENBACH

Neeraj Chopra made history as he became the first-ever Indian track and field star to claim a gold medal at the Olympics, accomplishing the feat by winning the javelin throw event in Tokyo on Saturday.

Neeraj Chopra, who joined legendary shooter Abhinav Bindra to become just the second Indian Olympian ever to clinch a gold medal at the biggest sports competition in the world, rose to No. 2 in World Athletics Rankings on Wednesday.

The Indian javelin mega-star is only ranked behind his good friend and world champion Johannes Vetter of Germany, who finished 9th in Japan's capital city.

Neeraj's latest milestone of reaching the No. 2 spot was praised by several social media users, with many saying that they were 'proud' of his achievements.

On the other hand, coaches at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala, and the Sports Authority of India (SAI), including his childhood coach Jaiveer Singh began debating about his prospects of becoming the top-ranked javelin thrower in the world.

While they already believe that Neeraj has attained superhero status in India, they also claimed that he is "technically the No. 1 player in the world because he has won the world's biggest competition".

Neeraj's childhood coach Singh said that he could go on to become the best player in the world.

"It won't be a surprise if Neeraj attains the No. 1 ranking in the next few months. He has the habit of breaking records. Neeraj broke the junior world record in 2016 and now he is the Olympic champion. So, nothing is impossible for him." Singh told Sputnik on Thursday.

Vivek Satti, an athletics coach at the SAI centre in Sonepat on the outskirts of Delhi, also threw his weight behind Neeraj.

"For me, Neeraj is the best javelin thrower in the world. Didn't he beat Vetter at the Olympics?," Satti asked Sputnik on Thursday.

Talking about the Olympics, Neeraj began the men's javelin final with a bang, wiping out the competition with his throw of 87.03 metres in his first attempt.

However, his best performance was yet to come as he cleared a distance of 87.58m in his second attempt, laying down a marker for his opponents for the remainder of the contest.

While none of his other rivals ever crossed 87 metres, what sealed the deal in favour of Chopra was the early departure of world champion Johannas Vetter after the German was eliminated following the third round.

Neeraj's gold in the Japanese capital was also the country's first-ever Track and Field medal in athletics.

On the other hand, Vetter's performance in the final of the Olympics came as a surprise, considering he has consistently achieved throws of 90m+ in the recent past.

Just a couple of months before the quadrennial sports mega-event, top-ranked Vetter of Germany had cleared the season's best of 96.29m at the European Team Championships in Poland.

Earlier this year, Vetter had stunned the world by recording throws of 90m+ in seven consecutive competitions.

On the other hand, Chopra arrived in Tokyo on the back of his best display at the Indian Grand Prix in March, where he broke his own national record with a throw of 88.07m.

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