Patiala: Olympic-bound star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra smashed his own national record with a throw of 88.07m, which is also the best of the year so far, in a sensational return to action during the third Indian Grand Prix meet here on Friday.
Competing for the first time in more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the whole of 2020 calendar, Chopra hurled the spear to a distance of 88.07cm in his fifth attempt to obliterate his earlier national record of 88.06m, sealed during the gold-winning effort at the 2018 Asian Games.
The 24-year-old Chopra opened the competition with an effort of 83.03m before having two foul throws. After a fourth throw of 83.36m, Chopra sent the javelin to 88.07m amid loud cheers from a sizeable audience at the NIS Patiala. His final throw was 82.24m.
"I was prepared and today it was windy. I used my favourite javelin which helped me. Pandemic did affect training and preparation but we managed to hold on," said Chopra who is also the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
"On the world level I would need to perform even better as current standard in the world is quite high."
Chopra qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in January last year in an event in South Africa during his training stint in that country. That was also the last competition he had taken part before Friday.
"Today there was strong wind and I don't have that much experience to throw in the wind. I am learning it slowly. Nordic Sports (company) has brought out a new javelin which is very good for competition in wind if released well.
"I used it in my fifth throw and it went very well though I did not feel I had given my best but it was a very good throw," Chopra said.
Chopra, who was representing Haryana in the IGP, had said that he will also take part in the Federation Cup National Championships to be held here from March 15-18.
Another Olympic-bound javelin thrower, Shivpal Singh of Uttar Pradesh, was second with a best throw of 81.63m while Sahil Silwal, representing Haryana, was third with a best effort of 80.65m.
The Tokyo Olympics qualification mark in men's javelin is 85m.
"At this point in time, javelin competition is very high in the world, could be one of the highest in history," reckoned the star athlete.