Neeraj Chopra is an Indian javelin thrower and Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Indian Army.
Neeraj Chopra was born on Wednesday, 24 December 1997 (age 23 years; as of 2020) in Khandra village, Panipat district, Haryana. His zodiac sign is Capricorn. He attended DAV College, Chandigarh, but later, he dropped out of the college and continued his graduation from DAV College, Chandigarh through correspondence. In an interview, he shared how he developed an interest in the javelin throw. He further said,
As an obese child, at the age of 11, I weighed 80 kilos. To get into shape, I visited the Panipat Stadium during vacations. My pocket money was about Rs 30 and many days I didn’t even have money for a glass of juice. I travelled by bus for about 17 kilometres to reach the stadium and returned with my uncle who worked in Panipat city. Although I was running to shed weight, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I used to stand at some distance and watch my senior Jaiveer, who has represented Haryana in javelin, practice. One day, at his behest, I tried the javelin. I discovered I could throw it far and the realisation helped me regain my self-esteem.”
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 86 kg
Eye Colour: Black
Hair Colour: Black
His father, Satish Kumar Chopra, works as a farmer. His mother’s name is Saroj Devi. He has two younger sisters, Sangeeta and Sarita. Neeraj lives in a joint family of more than 17 members.
He was born in a Ror Maratha family.
Initially, he started his professional training in the javelin at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Panchkula, Haryana. He then practised at the Athletics Nursery at the Taluka Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula, Haryana. In an interview, he shared that the Indian javelin thrower Jaiveer Choudhary was the first person who identified his talent. He said,
There were very few facilities to practise javelin in Panipat, the least of them the mud track that we ran on. When I decided to resume training seriously, I shifted to a sports nursery in Panchkula. I was 14. I practised on a synthetic track for the first time and got to train with athletes who were playing at the national level. I played my first junior nationals in Lucknow in 2012 and broke the national record with a throw of 68.46 metres.”
He further talked about the lack of sports facilities in his village. He said,
I left home when I was 14, owing to a lack of facilities. My formal education was disturbed after class 9. My dream is that villagers need not shift to a city the way I shifted to Panchkula. Athletes from Haryana are winning at the national, international and Olympics level but my village still does not have a playground. Whenever I stay there, I need to practice on the road. If we are to become an Olympian nation, every village should have a stadium and get coaches from the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, where I now train.”
Later, he participated in various national and international javelin throw competitions. He has won many medals at competitions like Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and Asian Championships. During an interview, while talking about winning the medals, he said,
After the youth nationals at Guntur where I won silver, I was selected for the World Youth Championships in Ukraine. In 2015, I was chosen for the National Games in Kerala. For the first time, in the camp, I got to practise with better-quality javelins, used internationally. Inferior quality javelins are heavier and can lead to injury: those with better material travel longer in the air. I threw it to a distance of 73.45 metres. In the same games, Rajinder Singh, my senior from Haryana, created a national record with a distance of 82.23.”
In 2016, he got selected as a Junior Commissioned Officer in the Indian Army with the rank of Naib Subedar. In the Asian Games 2018, he was selected as the flag bearer of India at the opening ceremony. In 2020, he qualified to participate in the Tokyo Olympics 2020 which was held in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He has been trained under Gary Calvert and Werner Daniels. His personal coach is Uwe Hohn from Germany, and his army coach is Raj Kumar.
- 2018: National Record of 88.06m mark at the Asian Games
- 2021: He broke his own national record with 88.07m javelin throw at the Indian Grand Prix
- 2016: South Asian Games in Guwahati, India
- 2016: World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland
- 2017: Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar, India
- 2018: Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia
- 2018: Sotteville Athletics Meet in Sotteville-lès-Rouen, France
- 2018: Savo Games in Lapinlahti, Finland
- 2018: Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia
- 2016: Asian Junior Championships in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- 2017: Asian Grand Prix Series in Jinhua, China
- 2017: Asian Grand Prix Series in Jiaxing, China
- 2018: Offenburg Speerwurf Meeting in Offenburg, Germany
- 2017: Asian Grand Prix Series in Taipei, Taiwan
Awards & Honours
- 2017: Hindustan Times Top 30 under 30 awarded by Captain Amrinder Singh
- 2021: Sportstar ACES Award- Sportsman of the Decade (Track and Field)
- Javelin Thrower: Jan Zelezny
- Singer(s): Rajender Kharkia and KD
- Virtual Games: Javelin Master 2, Brothers in Arms and Asphaltate
- His family and friends lovingly call him Nijju.
- He has received great support from his family and village people specially his uncle Bheem Singh who supported him to opt for javelin throw professionally.
- In an interview, while talking about Neeraj, his father said,
As a child, Neeraj used to twist the tails of buffaloes. Sometimes he used to harass the elderly by bursting crackers. The whole family was troubled by his words. Feeling proud to see a star adorned on my son’s shoulder. His father Satish Kumar said they had a joint family of 17. Neeraj was their eldest son. During his gym sessions in Panipat, Neeraj started visiting Shivaji Stadium. It was there that he came in contact with javelin thrower Jaiveer from Binjhol.”
- On giving a record winning performance in the U-20 World Championship in 2016, he was congratulated by the Chief Executive Officer of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg.
- In 2018, he had an injury in the right elbow at the 68th All India Inter-Services Athletics for which he underwent surgery in May 2019.
- Amid the coronavirus pandemic, he donated Rs. 2 lakh in the PM Cares Fund on 31 March 2020.
- In an interview, he shared that he used to be a vegetarian, but later, he turned non-vegetarian.
- In an interview, when he was asked if he could reward himself with a cheat meal after a win, what would it be? He replied,
If after I win I want to have a cheat meal, I’ll usually eat something sweet. I usually restrict the number of sweets I eat normally so when I get the chance to have a cheat meal, I’ll usually eat a lot of sweets. I don’t even care what kind of sweets they are. What I really like is fresh homemade churma (crushed roti with sugar and ghee). It has a lot of ghee and sugar, so it’s something we can’t eat during training so it’s something I really enjoy.”
- He loves motorcycles and owns a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
- Neeraj has appeared in various print advertisements of the electronics company Amstrad.
- Neeraj Chopra is an avid animal lover.
- In an interview, his uncle told that Neeraj was away from his phone for a year to prepare well for the Tokyo Olympics. He further said,
Neeraj has worked hard to win a medal in the Olympics. His phone has been switched off since a year. We had spoken to him through a video call a week ago, that too from the manager’s phone. After that there was no talk.”