The Hindu (Mumbai)

Champion on track

Norris Pritam on the spirit of Neeraj Chopra’s stupendous achievemen­ts on the world stage

- Y.B. Sarangi sarangi.y@thehindu.co.in Sunil Rajagopal

XClear winner: Neeraj Chopra at the 2022 Asian Games at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre, China.

It’s always challengin­g to write about a person who is famous because every aspect of his life would have been discussed threadbare. But The Neeraj Chopra Story by veteran sports journalist and former athlete Norris Pritam draws you in with its honest and straightfr­omtheheart approach.

Embellishe­d with a befitting foreword by sixtime world champion and London Olympics bronze medallist boxer M.C. Mary Kom, the book, with simple prose and easy pace, tracks the iconic

What is the nature of memory? Especially, remembranc­es from our earliest childhood days? It is like a hazy sea of vagueness with most of what we think we ‘remember’ being anecdotes told and retold fondly by mothers, aunts and sisters. Fathers seem to contribute little here. In their midst, a handful of random, almost meaningles­s moments stand out with startling clarity and joy. For Romulus Whitaker, in a portent of things to come, one occurs when he turns over a rock and finds a shed snakeskin. He looks at it, and rather than be repulsed or mortally afraid as most of us primates would be, realises that snakes shed their skins like we take our socks off, inside out!

Being colour-blind

One theme that runs strongly javelin thrower’s life of a boy from the Haryana hinterland to a historymak­ing global star.

Norris may have missed covering the COVIDmarre­d Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but he has made up for his absence in the Japanese capital by making some hard work to serve readers a Neeraj Chopra story as fresh as he could. His narrative includes everyone who played an important role in making Chopra what he is today — an Olympic and world champion.

Tribute to other greats

Norris revisits Indian athletics’ past to put Chopra’s achievemen­ts into perspectiv­e. Right from Milkha Singh, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, is how unconventi­onal his early life was. From a single parent childhood in rural America to the maniacal churn of a family in India, to the freedom he has to explore the world around him. His ability to not allow his education, first regimented and later religious, to change

Sriram Singh to P.T. Usha and Anju Bobby George, the author has discussed several great athletes to bring us some heartbreak­ing instances of Indian athletes missing an Olympic medal narrowly.

Some gripping real life examples, which were exclusive to the author because of his days as an athlete, and an elaborate descriptio­n about the lack of facilities and poor conditions for yesteryear athletes make one understand that it was not the dearth of talent but other factors which dented Indian athletes’ medal hopes at the biggest stage.

Switching his storytelli­ng from being an observer to being a character, Norris tells Chopra’s story with

The Neeraj Chopra Story

Norris Pritam Bloomsbury

₹399

Snakes, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll: My Early Years

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