There is a moment after Neeraj Chopra's javelin leaves his hand, when it soars skywards and almost appears to disappear in the glare of the floodlights high above Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta. The trajectory of his competitors' throws never seem to make it that high. You can track their arcs all the way from their launch until they land at their modest distances.
Chopra doesn't just win, he absolutely annihilates the field here. His throw at the Asian Games, a new national record, is 5.8 metres clear of the pack. That's the widest gap between gold and silver in the history of the Asian Games. Each of the throws he made would have won gold here. Even probably the ones that disgusted him so much (second and sixth), which he intentionally stepped out of the throwing area to foul so the marks wouldn't be recorded under his name.
That domination of the very best of Asia proved that Chopra's capabilities far exceed the level of competition this continent can provide. The scale of his victory eclipsed anything else India has achieved so far and is likely to over the course of these games.
For Indian athletes, success at the Asian Games often seems to be a wall they seem to hit. Medals at the Asian Games, even gold, are not uncommon. After overcoming continental challenges, there is a tailing off of results. In seven decades at the Asian Games, Indian athletes have won 282 medals, including 74 gold. In contrast, there's just Anju Bobby George's 2005 World Cup bronze to show at the global stage.
While Chopra is looking for his first senior world medal too, he's already thereabouts. In Jakarta, his spear travels higher and further and it's almost as if this venue is fast becoming too small for him. His marks aren't just excellent for Asia. These are serious world-class efforts. He's already far, far superior than the current elite were at his age. At 21 years old, world champion Johannnes Vetter (current best 94.44m) had a personal best of 79.75. Olympic champion Thomas Rohler (personal best 93.90m) was throwing 80.79m and 2012 Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott was at 84.58m. Even removing the concession of youth, Chopra's numbers are impressive. His throw in Jakarta would have won him a bronze at the 2016 Olympics, easily clinched a gold in London and a silver at Beijing.
There are any number of reasons for the failure to progress at the highest level. In India, athletics has long been accustomed to mediocrity and pettiness, infighting and ineptitude. Chopra has already transcended much of that with the sheer power of his performances. Both him and his javelin are close to escape velocity. Close to shaking free of the mind-warping clutter that so many of his compatriots struggle with.
But Chopra is aiming higher still. After the Commonwealth Games, where he also won gold, he spoke about what his dreams were for the future. He had ticked all the other benchmarks already. "90m pahunchna hai (I have to reach 90m)." He had spoken about the challenge then. "When you start throwing a javelin, you think it would be great to get to 80m," he says. "Then you start doing that consistently and you start trying to get to 90m, but everything is different. Everything has to be perfect. Your speed, your technique and your power. You get your release point one or two inches off the correct spot and you will miss it. That is how precise you have to be."
Chopra is chasing perfection. It doesn't seem that way when he is throwing. Fifteen strides after he explodes off the track, accelerating towards his approach run, he braces his left leg and pivots to launch his pointy projectile. Chopra's entire body bends like bow, he describes the feeling like "a current going through me". There's so much energy released in this rubber-band-like explosion of torque that Chopra literally flings himself off the ground and lands on his hands messily close to the foul line.
It's a style that Chopra says comes naturally to him. "I don't do it in training," he says. "It happens by itself in competition."
But while he says the awkward release is natural, he's actually channelling Jan Zelezny. The Czech, who has three Olympic gold medals and as many world titles is the Jordan of the sport. Back in 2010, when Chopra was a boy who had no formal coach but only a passion for throwing a spear, he would watch videos of Zelezny on YouTube loop. Unsurprisingly, Zelezny too had the flying release.
Chopra absolutely adores Zelezny. Down to his wild but magnificent mane -- which is the same early Nineties shag as the Czech. "I think I even look like him," he has said. He has only met his hero once in real life. In September last year, at his first world championships. He didn't medal there or even make the final, but he got a picture with Zelezny. "He was old but I still knew who he was," Chopra says. "He might have thought I was just a fan though. I obviously couldn't tell who I was."
Chopra is hoping he won't have to introduce himself in the future. It's Zelezny who will continue to inspire him as he edges closer to perfection. Despite his monster throw in Jakarta, Chopra wasn't satisfied. The fact that his javelin travelled at an angle rather than flying straight cost him at least a foot in distance.
"Everything of his is perfect," he says of Zelezny. He compares himself unfavourably. "My [throwing] d should be a little higher. The block leg needs to be straighter. For him [Zelezny], everything was perfect. For me, it is still a little loose. When I throw the javelin, my elbow is still very low. That makes the tail of the javelin low too. And because of that my throws will be flatter. I still need to keep my elbow high when I throw. If I throw from a height, it flies straighter and gets good distance too. Right now only the falling over is same for both of us," he laughs.
Frank in his assessment of where he stands, Chopra remains determined to chase his goal. While the rest of India and the country continues to obsess about the Asian Games and the medal he has won here, Chopra has already tucked the bling into his travel bag and has moved on. He's already looking at the next big challenge. On Tuesday evening he flies out of Soekarno Airport. The Asian Games and Jakarta will soon be a speck in the distance behind him. He flies straight to Zurich where he will take part in the Diamond League. There he will do battle once again with Olympic champion Vetter, world silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch and Andreas Hoffman, who has already thrown 92.06m this season. Amongst the very stratosphere of the world's elite. That's the level at which he belongs now.