KIYG 2023: Inspired by Neeraj Chopra, javelin thrower Deepika continues the habit of breaking meet records
CHENNAI — At the age of 17 years, young javelin thrower Deepika from Haryana has made it a habit to break records, just like her idol Neeraj Chopra, the reigning Olympic and World Championship gold medallist who has set new standards all the way to the top.
Deepika hails from Bangaon, which is a quiet village of 5,000-odd residents situated in Fatehabad district of Haryana. Athletics coaches from the region refer to it as the ‘Mini Finland of Haryana’ due to the surge in javelin medals from the area.
For the residents of Bangaon, scripting new records in javelin throw competitions, however, is a regular affair. The same is the case with Deepika.
On Thursday, Deepika improved on her own record. Featuring in her fourth Khelo India Youth Games, Deepika broke her previous meet record by hurling the spear to a distance of 56.79m to clinch the gold medal at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. She has been a part of the Government of India’s Khelo India scholarship scheme since 2022 as well.
The man behind her surge is Hanuman Singh, who does the talking and allows his wards to express themselves on the field. And as it turned out, it’s easier getting records out of Deepika than getting out sentences or even words. When on the field, the Haryana girl does not shy away from breaking javelin records, but once the event is over, Deepika’s answers to every question thrown at her are smiles and giggles.
Try asking Deepika how she creates records so often, she giggles and deflects the question to her coach Hanuman Singh. “She has been working very hard. She does whatever she is asked to do. It is the discipline that has helped her break one record after another,” replies Hanuman.
Why javelin, when Haryana offers a variety of sports for women like boxing, wrestling, and hockey? “While growing up, Deepika tried a little bit of everything. Then Neeraj Chopra happened, and she decided to take up javelin as a career. Looking at all her records, she was right in taking the right decision,” Hanuman said, as Deepika watched her coach reveal her liking for the discipline.
Unlike her hero Neeraj Chopra, Deepika has short hair. When asked why, she replied, “Ask my coach, he told me to.” Hanuman comes up with an instant reply, “This is one of the conditions to join the academy, it helps in training.”
This was her fourth medal at the Khelo India Youth Games. Barring the silver she won at the Guwahati Games in 2020, Deepika earned three gold medals. She broke the first record with 51.37m distance in Panchkula. In the Bhopal Games, she bettered the record with a 55.19m distance.
While the nearest synthetic track is around 65 km from their village, Hanuman had set up his academy in an abandoned chicken farm, owned by a relative. Hanuman, a medallist at the state and national level, began coaching in his village in 2010, and since then has produced several record-breakers.
He recalled that the year 2017 was a turning point in his coaching career when his trainee Jyoti bagged the U-20 gold with a meet record at the Junior Nationals while Poonam Rani bagged silver medals at the senior Fed Cup, Open Nationals and Inter-State Meet.
“The surge started from there, all these kids were inspired by their feats and wanted to prove themselves on the big stage,” Hanuman commented.
As for Deepika, the daughter of a farmer, who lives next door to Hanuman Singh’s academy, she is tasked to fetch a bucket of drinking water and refill it during training sessions.
Deepika, who started life in the humblest of humble settings, now has two Under-16 and five Under-18 records to her name at the Khelo India Youth Games. She is now on her way to Khelo India University Games scheduled to be held in Guwahati in February.