Neeraj Chopra


The village is small, and the people are many.

So much so that it’s not even possible to count it.

A thousand times a thousand.

Then again, a thousand more times.

And still It’s not enough.

Millions of hearts, eyes and hands that become one.

A single entity.

Almost a person who breathes and thinks, together.

When they speak, a billion voices become a song, and from the wind that blows it away, the sounds seems to be geological, not animal.

As if they could never stop, as if they came directly from the center of the Earth, and not from something who can grown old.

Neeraj Chopra

In the village, no one knew sports.

There were no places to do it.

There was no will to do it.

There was no reason to do it.

Sunrise and sunset: work and life become synonyms, in the repetition of time, always equal to itself, always stingy and always precious.

Always father, son and master.

And the boy helped around the house as much as he could.

He helped in the fields and with the animals, as per the tradition of his family, of his legacy. He cut the grass, milked the buffaloes, got up early and walked a lot.

Happy to be part of the chorus.

Happy to be alive.

He had no big dreams of glory, the boy.

Nor did he feel unsatisfied with what he had, or with how much he filled his days with it. Nonetheless, one day, when he was already quite grown up, he found himself on an athletics field and in that moment, for him, everything changed.

Cricket was everyone's sport.

But not his.

And as soon as his eye fell on the flight of a javelin, he knew what he should do.

It was a light flight, yet so powerful.

Arched, but strong.

Elastic, but firm. As if that spear had to stick each time in the center of a mountain and open it in two, to let out the treasure that is buried inside of it.

Thus, just as the javelin is attracted by the gravity of the world, but it only bends according to his own rules, so the boy was attracted to the javelin itself, by its solar parabola, which stretches from dawn to sunset in the space of a scream.

Or a prayer.

Neeraj Chopra

The boy started training, and since where he was born there was no right place to do it, every day he took a bus.

Every day, he would first sit for miles and then walk for miles, in order to reunite with his beloved javelin.

He didn't think about success.

He didn't think about the Olympics.

He was concerned only with explaining to the others the reasons for his love for it.

And in that case, his words never seemed enough.

People thought he'd better study, that this was a safer path.

More suited to his qualities.

Even when he tried to convince his friends, no one seemed to see what he saw in the javelin.

Nobody seemed to understand its beauty.

Nobody heard its whisper in your ear, which, like the conscience, blows a thought into you, every time you throw it away.

He had a lot of doubts, the boy.

But he never stopped feeling love for what he did, even though it took a year and a half to start seeing results, for the javelin to fly like he should have flown.

The ups and downs are always there.

But they are not the story.

The will is the story.

The boy became big and strong.

He started throwing far.

He began to represent his country in the world, happy singer in a song of a billion voices.

He has crossed all the boundaries marked on the grass by the hand of man.

70 meters.

80 meters.

86 meters.

87 meters and 58 centimeters, the gold of Tokyo.

89 meters and 94 centimeters, the furthest he has ever thrown.

Neeraj Chopra

On his return from the Tokyo Olympics, with a medal around his neck that no one had ever won before him, he felt the full weight of history.

The weight of the numbers.

The weight of the chorus.

At the airport there were thousands of people waiting for him.

Arms that wanted to touch him, greet him, hug him.

Yet, as far as they were so much, they were only a very small fraction of what he felt on his own body.

A whole country.

He felt an entire country on him, he felt it close to him, and he also knew that thanks to his story, that country would open its spirit to new disciplines.

He knew that millions would begin a journey like his.

And that was good.

Now that he is a giant, the boy has become a man.

But in the belly of that man, the boy is still hiding.

Far away in time, but very close in the heart: when sadness takes him, or when the weight of representing so many assails him, he returns to the farm, among the buffaloes and the plantations, and thinks about himself as a child.

He thinks back to the difficulties, the kilometers traveled.

The first time he heard the sound of a javelin flying.

He repeat to himself that there is no obstacle too great for him, who was able to achieve all this starting from here. But he repeats it, while keeping his feet firmly in the mud, where it all began, to never forget the true meaning of what he lived.

He, a voice among the voices, in a song of a billion voices.

Neeraj Chopra / Contributor

Neeraj Chopra