Academies and equipment sellers all point to spike in javelin after Neeraj Chopra gold
Popular sports academies, like the Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi, are seeing a wave of new registrations. One Olympian says he gets “at least half a dozen texts every day” from newbies asking him about coaches. And retailers are shipping more equipment.
Neeraj Chopra’s historic gold at the Tokyo Olympics in August sparked a local javelin wave.
So much so that the Indian Athletics Federation is about to give the sport a further boost. AFI has announced that each state unit will hold an annual javelin competition every August 7, the day Chopra won India’s first ever athletics gold medal at the Olympics. Talks are also underway for an exchange program with Finland, one of the traditional powers in sport.
At Chhatrasal Stadium, famous for its wrestling akhara, coach Raman Jha said 40 new students have registered for the javelin in the past two months. “In my 12 years as a coach, I haven’t seen that kind of interest. After the Olympics, some of the younger runners asked me if they could switch to the javelin. I also get a lot of calls every day from young athletes and their parents saying they would like to register for the javelin, ”Jha says.
Sunil Goswami, a former national javelin champion who coaches children at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, says the “javelin craze” is not confined to the capital region.
“I have friends who are coaches from across the country and they tell me that almost everyone wants to play javelin after Neeraj’s gold. Children from the outskirts of town show up at the stadium and ask me to train them. There are tennis players, runners and gymnasts who come to me and tell me they want to play javelin, ”Goswami explains.
Sports equipment manufacturers are also riding the wave. Amentum Sports, a company based in Indore, has seen sales “at least three times as much” since August. Jitender Singh, Amentum partner, says the demand for low budget javelins, in the order of Rs 10,000, has increased considerably.
“Things changed after the Olympics. We get calls from all over the country. We have high end javelins, which also cost over Rs 1 lakh, but at the moment economy javelins are in high demand. We also have a few customers who switched to a cheaper model earlier and now want to try a better one, ”Singh explains.
Ashutosh Bhalla, director of Vinex Sports, a javelin supplier to AFI, expects demand to increase next season.
In Delhi, gymnast Arun Kumar, 20, is among those who have recently started the javelin. Watching the national anthem perform with Chopra on the medal podium in Tokyo prompted Arun to make his own javelin.
“I found a nice bamboo stick and attached a sharp piece of metal to the end. I tried to throw it early in the morning at the local park. All of my throws were wide, ”he says. Once he corrected his exit angle with a little help from YouTube videos, Arun bought himself an entry-level javelin and headed to Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for formal training.
International launcher Shivpal Yadav told The Indian Express his phone has not stopped ringing since returning from Tokyo. “I get calls every day. Whenever young athletes reach out to me, I try to guide them. I put them in contact with coaches that I know, ”explains the gold medalist of the Military World Games.
Coach Goswami says that while the peak is encouraging, the key to producing champions will be the quality of training, as javelin is a highly technical sport. “We have a handful of javelin coaches in the country. Most of them are former athletes or senior athletes who coach juniors. Lots of changes have to take place. Children who show interest are just the beginning, ”he says.
Since javelin training cannot take place while other athletes are training due to the risk of a misguided spear, the youth of Chhatrasal must show up earlier than the others. “A lot of kids with no physical condition come in and tell us they want to javelin. It’s a very difficult sport, ”said senior coach Sunita Rai.
“We have seen an increase in interest in athletics after Delhi hosted the 2010 Commonwealth Games. But the current craze for the javelin is unprecedented… nothing happens overnight, Neeraj is a special talent, ”she says.