Neeraj was confident of winning gold at Tokyo Olympics, says his first coach Naik

By Bapu Datta Naraayannkar

Bengaluru : Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who scripted history at Tokyo Olympics, was confident of bringing home a gold medal, athlete’s first coach and well-known talent scout, Kashinath Naik said.

The 23-year-old Chopra, who hails from Khandra village near Panipat in Haryana, on Saturday threw a best of attempt of 87.58m in the finals to end India’s 100-year wait for a track and field medal in the Olympics.

With his historic performance, he also became only the second individual Indian athlete after shooter Abhinav Bindra to win gold at Olympics.

Kashinath Naik was golden boy Neeraj Chopra’ first coach. He spotted young Neeraj’s talent in Javelin and trained him for three years from 2015 to 2017 at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala.

Speaking to UNI from Pune on telephone, Naik said Neeraj was very confident of winning the gold medal at Tokyo.

“I will win gold today and you will witness to our Rashtra Gaan (national anthem) being played in the background while the Tiranga (Tricolour) flies high,” Neeraj told Naik ahead of the competition.

Naik also mentioned how he encouraged Chopra to give his best. ‘Just before the competition I had called Neeraj and I told and informed him that the German competitor Johannes Vetter was out of form and Thomas Rohler, another German javelin thrower who was 2016 Olympic champion, was not competing. So, I told him that he has a 120 per cent chance of winning a gold medal. And he did exactly this and fulfilled my dream,” he said.

Coach Naik, who himself is a bronze medal winner in Javelin at 2010 Commonwealth Games, also holds the post of Naib Subedar in the Indian Army.

It has been the dream of Naik to see an Indian win gold at the Olympics and listen to the national anthem play in the background.

‘It has been my dream to see an Indian athlete winning a gold and listen to the national anthem played in the background. This was my dream since I won a bronze at the commonwealth games. This dream has been fulfilled by Neeraj,’ he said.

The well-known scout also recalled how he had tremendous faith in Neeraj from the very beginning and always thought he was the one who would bring gold to the country at big games.

‘When I first spotted him during the Patiala talent hunt competition and made him compete with the seniors, I realised he is the boy who will bring gold to the country because he has that josh (passion), verve and enthusiasm,” Naik said.

‘Apart from the training and practice sessions, it is important to have josh. If you don’t have it, then it is not worth it. The best example of this was in full view yesterday when we saw Vetter’s josh dwindling. He lost the passion to better the best throw of 87.58 meters achieved by Neeraj,’ he added.

The coach revealed that he could not speak to Neeraj after the gold winning performance because it was too late at night, but sent him a congratulatory video message.

‘I will speak to him today,’ he said.

Talking about the young budding talent, Naik said he is amazed by skill and performance of the boys and girls training with him at the army sports academy in Pune.

‘In my time, we were throwing 75 to 78 throws, but nowadays boys are throwing 84 to 85 meters javelin,’ he said.