Neeraj Chopra’s World Championship main rival, Anderson Peters, started by aiming at mangoes with stones, wanted to be a sprinter like Usain Bolt

By: Express News Service |

Updated: July 22, 2022 2:39:03 pm

Peters smashed his personal best to win the men's javelin in Doha back in May when he threw 93.07m. (Photo: @WorldAthletics/Twitter)

The 2016 Under-20 World Championships in Poland is where Neeraj Chopra and Grenada’s Anderson Peters had their first big showdown. This was two years before Peters, who has studied in the United States since 2017, threw 81.95 metres to break the Mississippi State’s freshman record. At the Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak Stadium, Chopra became the junior world champion and an overnight star. His 86.48 metres was a world junior record. Johan Grobler (80.59m) of South Africa was second and third, almost unnoticed in the frenzy in India, was Peters (79.65m). Peters had set a national under-20 mark but back then Chopra was anointed as the future star.

Of the three podium finishers from those U20 championships, two – Chopra and Peters – are expected to fight it out for the gold in the men’s javelin throw final in the World Championships on Sunday morning. The event has a reputation of being unpredictable and Chopra himself has said, “Anything could happen on the day.”

Tokyo Olympic champion @Neeraj_chopra1 throws 88.39m in his first attempt and qualifies automatically for the javelin final.

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— Express Sports (@IExpressSports) July 22, 2022

Grobler was in Group A of qualifying, the same one as Chopra, but finished seventh with a lowly 76.30 metres. Chopra had the second-best throw of 88.39 metres in qualifying on Friday while Peters topped with 89.91 metres.

Peters has been one of the best in the world. He is the defending champion at the World Championships and though he failed to reach the final of the Tokyo Olympics, he has found his range this season. A 93.07 metres in the Doha Diamond League and a 90.31 at the Stockholm Diamond League, where he pushed Chopra to second place, is a testament to his form despite a nagging back injury.

#WCHOregon22 #javelinthrow

The man who stands between Neeraj Chopra and a possible World Championship gold medal. A 90m plus thrower from Grenada who also can dance.

📹: Beau Throwspic.twitter.com/9vLEfgDC7F

— Express Sports (@IExpressSports) July 22, 2022

What makes Peters a formidable opponent is his ability to produce a big throw even towards the end of the competition. Chopra on the other hand has set the tone in the big events by producing his best in the first two-three attempts and the others have failed to match him. Chopra’s coach Dr Klaus Bartonietz is aware of the threat posed by Peters. “There’s (Anderson) Peters and (Keshorn) Walcott. They are able to fight until the end. Neeraj has not been forced to do that so far. In the Olympics his first throw was good enough and then he did better in the second,” Bartonietz had said ahead of the Worlds. Walcott, however, didn’t qualify for the final and finished eighth in Group A.

Interesting initiation

A young and overweight Chopra was asked by his family to head to an athletics ground in Panipat to lose weight as a youngster. He saw javelin throwers in action, got hooked and picked up technique by watching YouTube videos. Peters also has an interesting story on how his arm got used to throwing. But it was not by using a javelin.

He took stones to aim at mangoes and apples on trees as a youngster in Grenada. “To me it was always a natural thing to throw. As kids, we used to regularly throw a rock to get mangoes and golden apples. Our mango trees were really high,” Peters was quoted as saying by World Athletics.

His aim was pretty good. He first started throwing with a javelin at the age of 10 and set a school record.

But his attention got diverted to the sprints soon.  A fellow Caribbean from Jamaica was scorching the tracks. Peters was fascinated by the greatest ever sprinter Usain Bolt.

“Usain Bolt was also on the scene at that time, so I wanted to be a sprinter,” Peters said. He ran a wind-assisted sub-11 in the 100 metres when he was 20 and was also a member of the 4x100m relay team for Grenada at the Carifta Games in 2016. But injuries forced him to get back to throwing.

“But in Form Two I picked up a few injuries so in form three I returned to javelin.”

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Peters’ other great inspiration was Walcott, the 2012 Olympic champion from Trinidad and Tobago. As a young javelin thrower, Peters used to study the distances Walcott threw to see how much more he had to improve. Seeing someone from another island, just 30 minutes away from his, become an Olympic champion pushed Peters to focus on becoming a top javelin thrower. However, the facilities in Grenada weren’t up to scratch and equipment was not easy to come by. “Coach used to joke that regularly retrieving the javelins was good fitness training,” Peters said about having only three javelins at his disposal.

From 79.65 metres in 2016 to 93.07 metres six years later and a World Championship gold medal (2019) in the kitty. For someone who wanted to be the next Bolt, Peters has done pretty well for himself as a javelin thrower.

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