The world junior record holder has an outside chance of clinching a medal
Fast-rising javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra will have the weight of expectations on him when he begins his World Athletics Championship campaign on Thursday, aiming to infuse some life into India's listless performance in the mega-event.
The 19-year-old world junior record holder has an outside chance of clinching a medal and he will feature in the qualification round.
Davinder Singh Kang is the second Indian in fray in men's javelin throw. Kang tested positive for marijuana in June but was named in the 25-member Indian team as the banned substance was in the specified list of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADA) and does not attract automatic suspension.
India's best bet for a medal is Chopra, whose season's best of 85.63m puts him at 14th in the IAAF rankings.
He has a personal best of 86.48m, which he did while setting a junior world record last year, but needs to improve at least a meter more than to be in contention for a medal.
Two javelin throwers -- Johannes Vetter and reigning Olympic and world champion Thomas Rohler -- have crossed the 90m mark this year while eight athletes have gone beyond 87.64m, the distance covered by the bronze-winner in 2015 World Championships in Beijing.
The Indian has three 85m throws this season and two of these came during his Diamond League appearances in Paris and Monaca last month -- where he had finished fifth and seventh respectively.
"I have been training here for the last 10 days and so I am well prepared for the championships. It was a bit difficult in the first couple of days but now I have fully acclimatised to the conditions and I am 100 per cent ready," Chopra said.
Chopra has come here without a coach but he sought to dwell on the positives, saying, "I have to do it with what I have. The Athletics Federation of India has finalised a coach (javelin great Uwe Hohn of Germany).
"But he is unable to join for this World Championships (as he still has a contract with the Australian team). I am fine with that," he said.
Asked if he got some tips from the former world record holder German when he trained in Germany for a few days before the World Championships, Chopra said, "The coach is still with the Australian team and so he could not spare much time for me."
Chopra is placed in the qualifying round Group A which begins at 19:05 hrs (23:35 IST) while Kang will feature in qualifying round Group B which begins at 20:35 hrs (01:05 IST on Aug 11).
Chopra is expected to qualify for the final round but Kang (personal as well as season's best of 84.57m) will have to be at his best if he wants to make that grade.
If both go through the qualifying round, it will be a rare occasion when two Indians will make it to the final round of an event in the world championships.
In track events, Dutee Chand (women's 100m race), Muhammed Anas Yahiya (men's 400m) and Siddhant Thingalaya (men's 110m hurdles) crashed out in the first round heats while Nirmala Sheoran reached upto the semifinals in women's 400m race.
In field events, Annu Rani failed to make it to the final round in women's javelin as she finished 20th overall with a best throw of 59.93m.
Heptathlete Swapna Barman finished a lowly 26th while T Gopi and Monika Athare ended at 28th and 64th in men's and women's marathon respectively.