India’s Olympic and world champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra clinched his first gold medal at the Paavo Nurmi Games on Tuesday, showcasing his dominance in a competitive field. This victory marked his return to action after a month-long break. Chopra, who previously secured a silver medal at this event in 2022, achieved the winning throw of 85.97 meters on his third attempt, leading the competition for the majority of the event.

Chopra’s performance highlighted his superiority over 19-year-old German prodigy Max Dehning, who had garnered attention as the youngest member of the 90m club. However, Dehning underperformed, finishing seventh out of eight with a best effort of 79.84 meters, failing to breach the 80m mark.

In the competition, Finnish athlete Toni Keranen claimed the silver medal with a personal best throw of 84.19 meters, while his compatriot and the 2022 gold medallist, Oliver Helander, secured the bronze with a throw of 83.96 meters. Chopra began his series with a throw of 83.62 meters, which remained the best in the first round. Helander briefly took the lead in the second round with his throw of 83.96 meters, but Chopra reclaimed the top spot with his winning effort of 85.97 meters in the third round, which no competitor surpassed for the remainder of the event.

Chopra’s celebration following his third throw, characterized by his raised hands and a trademark roar, underscored his confidence in the special nature of his performance. This victory bolstered his position as a favorite for the gold medal at the upcoming Paris Olympics, despite the throw distance being shorter than his silver-winning throw of 89.30 meters at the same event two years prior. Notably, Chopra had improved this mark to 89.94 meters at the Stockholm leg of the Diamond League in the same year.

Other notable performances at the Paavo Nurmi Games included two-time world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who finished fourth with a throw of 82.58 meters, and 2012 Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago, who managed a season’s best of 81.93 meters to finish sixth.

Chopra’s participation at the Paavo Nurmi Games followed a cautious withdrawal from the Ostrava Golden Spike last month due to concerns over his adductor muscles. He had previously opened his season at the Doha Diamond League in May, securing second place with a final throw of 88.36 meters, the ninth-best mark of his career. Additionally, he participated in the National Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar, winning the gold medal with a throw of 82.27 meters.

Following his success at the Paavo Nurmi Games, Chopra is set to compete next at the Paris Diamond League on July 7. To manage his schedule ahead of the Olympics, he has opted out of the National Inter-State Athletics Championships in Panchkula, scheduled for June 27.

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