Into the final with a "perfect throw", trailblazing javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra says he will need the same performance with a higher score to be in contention for India's maiden track-and-field medal at the Olympic Games.
The 23-year-old is the first Indian javelin thrower to enter an Olympics final. He made it with a big throw of 86.65 metres, which put him at the top of Group A and B qualification, on Wednesday.
He needed just a few seconds to make that cut, sending the spear well past the direct qualifying mark of 83.50m in his first attempt.
Shivpal Singh, the other Indian in the fray, failed to make it through from Group B later in the day.
In his first throw, Shivpal attained a distance of 76.40 metres. His next was 74.80 metres, less than the first. A distance of 76.40m in his third attempt was not enough to get him to the final. He placd 12th in the Group B qualification, which had 16 contenders.
"I am at my first Olympic Games, and I feel very good. In warm-up my performance wasn't so good, but then (in the qualifying round) my first throw had a good angle, and was a perfect throw," said Chopra after qualifying for Saturday’s final.
He, however, is under no illusion that the final will be a totally different contest where the world's best will go for a podium finish.
"It will be a different feeling (in the final), since it is my first time in the Olympics. Physically we (all) train hard, and are ready, but I also need to prepare mentally.
"I will need to focus on the throw, and try to repeat this (performance) with a higher score," he said.
Chopra's performance on Wednesday will go down as one of the best performances by an Indian in the Olympics. He finished ahead of gold medal favourite and 2017 World champion Johannes Vetter of Germany.
"Last year was very difficult, because we were ready for the Olympics, and due to Coronavirus everything was closed. We felt a little sad, but after we started training regularly. We need to train every day, so it was difficult.
"But when Japan said they could do the Olympics, we prepared our mind and trained very hard."