THE entire country was swept with a wave of euphoria when javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra on Saturday won India’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in athletics. Chopra’s triumph was historic as it meant India racked up its best-ever medal haul of seven and brought a resurgence of national pride in sports.
With a throw of 87.58m, Chopra won the hearts of 1.38 billion people of the country who reveled in the glory of Olympic gold.
As India basks in the glory of Chopra’s unprecedented success, it is also important to remember how much effort was put behind the javelin thrower to attain this glory.
Chopra burst into the scene in 2016, when he already became a heartthrob of the country by winning a gold medal at the World U-20 Athletics Championships.
It was for the first time an Indian won a gold medal in an Athletics World Championships. His gold medal-winning performances continued in Asian Athletics Championships 2017, Commonwealth Games 2018, and Asian Games 2018.
However, a month after the Asian Games, Neeraj started feeling discomfort in the elbow of his throwing arm, which followed painful inflammation of the joint, leading to Neeraj only being able to do short and light throws.
He underwent surgery in May 2019, after which he went through a lengthy and lonely period of rehabilitation. His first competitive outing post-surgery came in January 2020, in a meet at Potchefstroom, South Africa. He managed to throw a distance of 87.86m, thus earning him a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.
Chopra was inducted into the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in November 2018. Besides, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports also sanctioned an Annual Calendar for Training and Competitions (ACTC) budget to the Athletics Federation of India during 2020-21, from which Neeraj got a sum.
In between 2016 and 2021, Neeraj received government support worth Rs 7 crore for the following purposes:
- Visa support letter for training and competing in events across Europe when the country was facing a lockdown.
- He received financial assistance towards the procurement of sports gear and recovery equipment.
- Finance was allotted separately for hiring a bio-mechanist expert cum coach for his training at the National coaching camp and for foreign exposure.
- Injury management and rehabilitation along with Federation and NGO
- He was given financial assistance towards 26 international competitions in the current Olympic cycle.
Here’s a breakdown of the financial support by the Government:
*Data of this table is based on information provided by SAI. The government has further spent on facilitating Chopra’s training in NIS Patiala for 1097 days in the last Olympic cycle.
The Government of India supported him with an exclusive foreign coach, Dr Klaus Bartroneitz, since July 2019 when he returned to training after rehabilitation from an elbow injury.
In the last Olympic cycle, his extended training camps in South Africa, Poland, Turkey, Finland, Czech Republic and Sweden as well as 26 competitions in different locations were funded by Government.
The Indian government’s flagship program, Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS), which started in 2014, has yielded major success for India in the last five years as it was used to its fullest potential.
Today, 126 athletes/ teams from India are part of the TOPS scheme in disciplines such as archery, boxing, wrestling, athletics, table tennis, hockey, and para-sports.
Indian athletes have time and again spoken about how the TOPS scheme has helped them excel. With the help of the scheme, athletes are provided with customised training under reputed coaches at institutes having world-class facilities, participation in international competition, purchasing high-quality equipment.
Besides, it appoints trainers, sports psychologists, physiotherapists for the athletes. It also gives the athletes an out-of-pocket allowance of Rs. 50,000 as an incentive every month. The effectiveness of the scheme has produced several medal-winning prospects at the Tokyo Olympics like javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, among others.