Davinder Singh Kang has become the first Indian to qualify for the final round of the javelin throw World Championships while fast-rising Neeraj Chopra crashed out in the qualification round.
Competing in the qualification round Group B, Kang, who was carrying a shoulder injury, cleared the automatic qualification mark of 83m in his third and final throw as he sent the iron spear to a distance of 84.22m. He had a 82.22m in his opening throw and then came up with 82.14m in his second.
The 26-year-old athlete from Punjab was under pressure to touch the 83m in his final attempt and he was the last man to take the throw. He did it in style by sending the spear beyond the qualification mark to the huge relief of the Indian camp.
Thirteen throwers -- five from Group A and seven from Group B crossed the automatic qualification mark of 83m and all of them will compete in the final round on August 12.
Kang's best effort of 84.22m put him in the seventh position among the final round qualifiers. His final round qualification was all the more noteworthy as he was carrying an injury since the Indian Grand Prix in New Delhi in May. He competed with his right shoulder strapped.
No Indian has ever qualified in the men's javelin throw final round in any world championship.
"After I came to know that Neeraj did not qualify (for the final round), I wanted to qualify for the final round. I wanted to do something for the country, I wanted to do something which no Indian has done before. By the grace of God, I did something for the country," Kang said after his race.
"I have been carrying a right shoulder injury which I sustained in May during the Indian Grand Prix but it is not that a big problem. Our team masseur put these straps today and I am OK. But I had to ask my friend Sri Lankan competitor (Waruna Rankoth Pedige) to do some stretching before my third and final throw," he said showing his right shoulder injury.
"It (injury) will be all right after tomorrow's rest. I want to give my best in the final round on August 12 and win a medal for the country," he added.
Kang was 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 WADA Code and does not attract automatic suspension.
Earlier in Group A qualification round, Neeraj failed to make an impact as he crashed out of the World Championships after a disappointing performance.
Carrying the hopes of the entire country on his young shoulders, Neeraj could not hurl the iron spear to the the automatic final round qualification mark of 83m in his three attempts with his best effort of 82.26m coming in his opening throw.
The 19-year-old world junior record holder then fouled his second attempt before clearing only 80.54m in his third and final throw to finish seventh in his group and overall 15th at the Olympic Stadium.
For Neeraj, who has a personal best of 86.48m and season's best of 85.63m, his maiden World Championships ended with just thee throws.
"I tried my best but I could not clear the automatic qualification mark of 83m and I am disappointed. I gave a lot of effort in the first throw but it missed the 83m mark by a few centimetres. There were some problems in the second throw and the third one also did not go the distance (of 83m). I have been training hard for this World Championships but I could not do well in the actual competition," Chopra said after the race.
"It would have been ideal if a coach had come with me but that is not in my hands. I don't know what had happened today, I cannot say now whether it was technical issue or other factors," he added.
Neeraj was considered the best bet for India to have any shout for a medal as his season's best of 85.63m puts him at 14th in the IAAF rankings coming into the World Championships.
He has a personal best of 86.48m which he did while setting a junior world record last year.
The Indian has three 85m throws this season and his two Diamond League appearances in Paris and Monaca last month -- where he had finished fifth and seventh respectively-- which had boosted his confidence after rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the world.
(With PTI inputs)
Feature image: Reuters