Neeraj Chopra eased his way into the final of the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, on Friday, as he comfortably crossed the automatic qualification mark set at 83.50m.
Chopra, the reigning Olympic champion, began the men's javelin throw Group A qualification round with a massive 88.39m to qualify for the final of his very first attempt. This is Chopra's third-best throw of all time.
Chopra was joined in the final by his compatriot Rohit Yadav as the 21-year-old recorded a best of 80.42m to finish 11th. This is Yadav's first senior-level international event.
Another Indian athlete progressed to the medal round as Eldhose Paul made history by reaching the men's triple jump final by virtue of finishing in the top-12 with a best jump of 16.68m.
"It was a good start. I am also happy for Jakub [Vadlejch]. I hope my friends can also make it today. I'll give my 100% in the final. We'll see. Every day is different. I'll just give my best. We don't know who can throw far on any given day. There are so many throwers in good shape now. Five-six throwers have thrown PBs this year. They are all in excellent shape. There is a little bit of zigzag in my run-up. I shook a little bit, but it was a good throw," Chopra told World Athletics.
Chopra and Yadav will face stiff competition in the final as defending champion Andersen Peters [89.91m], Germany's Julian Weber [87.28m] and Tokyo Olympics silver-medallist Jakub Vadlejch [85.23m] also progressed to the final. Chopra, Peters, Weber and Vadlejch were the only throwers to seal automatic qualification for the final round.
This is the first time Chopra has made the World Championship final. He failed to get past the qualification round in 2017 and missed the 2019 edition in Doha as he was recovering from an elbow surgery.
Chopra, among the strong medal favourites here, has enjoyed a superb run of form since his return to competition. He began his season with a stunning 89.30m at the Paavo Nurmi Games on June 14, followed it up with a 86.89m amidst slippery conditions at the Kuortane Games on June 18 and followed it up with a massive personal best of 89.94m at the Stockholm Diamond League event 12 days later.
Chopra has been inching closer to the coveted 90m mark as two of his main competitors - Peters (93.07m) and Vadlejch (90.88m) - have already breached the mark this year.
Chopra and Yadav will return for the men's javelin final on Sunday at 7.05 am IST.