Asian Games 2018: A love story brewing between Vinesh Phogat and Neeraj Chopra?

Aug 22, 2018, 11:40 IST | Ashwin Ferro

India's gold-medallist wrestler Vinesh Phogat and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra insist they are 'just good friends'; we will let you decide

Asian Games 2018: A love story brewing between Vinesh Phogat and Neeraj Chopra?
India's wrestler Vinesh Phogat celebrates after winning gold in the women's 50kg freestyle event in Jakarta on Monday. Pic/PTI

They blush at the very mention of each other's names, just like high school sweethearts would, but insist they are just "good friends" when asked about one another. On Monday evening, while wrestler Vinesh Phogat was locked in battle with Japanese opponent Yuki Irie in the final of the 50kg event at the Jakarta Convention Centre Assembly Hall, India's star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra was a concerned spectator in the stands — literally standing and watching throughout the six-minute contest.

Interestingly, Neeraj had a practice session the same evening at the GBK Sports Complex, not very far from here. He was not supposed to make it for Vinesh's bout, but somehow managed to get there. "I had a training session just now, so I'm a little late, but I'm glad that I did not miss this final," Neeraj told mid-day during Vinesh's final.
It is learnt that Vinesh, 23, too was a keen spectator in the stands when Neeraj threw his spear across 86.47m to win gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia earlier this year.

India's javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra
India's javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra

Asked if he knew his statemate Vinesh well, Neeraj, 20, was a bit startled and paused before blushing. "I know her very well. I've known her since the time we were inducted into JSW Sports [sports arm of the JSW group that supports promising Indian athletes]. But we are just good friends," said Neeraj, a 2016 IAAF U-20 World Championships gold medallist.

Neeraj has also bagged three gold medals this year — first at the Gold Coast CWG in Australia, then at the Sotteville Athletics Meet in France, followed by the Savo Games in Finland. Meanwhile, Vinesh too couldn't stop blushing despite panting after a tense final, when she was told about Neeraj's presence in the hall. "Oh, is he here? We had spoken earlier and I told him not to come here because he had training in the evening, around the same time as my final, but it's nice that he made it," she said.

Quizzed if he is her lucky charm, Vinesh's cheeks got puffier and the smile broader. "Lucky charm jaisa kuch nahi hai. Hum sirf achche dost hai [there's nothing like a lucky charm or anything, we're just good friends]," she said. Neeraj's javelin throw final is on August 27 at a time when many of the wrestlers would have already returned to India since they would've been done with their events. It would be interesting to see if Vinesh hangs around to become Neeraj's lucky charm!

Also Read: Vinesh Phogat: From girl-next-door to Asian Games gold medallist

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