The Olympics champion also spoke on the Asian Games and more.

Neeraj Chopra is currently focussing on his off-season training at Loughborough University. In his first press conference of 2023, Chopra outlined his plans for the upcoming season and his resolution to reach to 90m mark.

Chopra enters the new year on the back of a stellar 2022, where he clinched silver in the World Championships and gold in the Diamond League Finals. In the Stockholm leg of the Diamond League, Chopra managed 89.94m and dissected the throw in detail.

Plans for the upcoming season

With three major events to look forward to in 2023, namely, the World Championships, rescheduled Asian Games, and the Diamond League Final, Chopra and his team will take a call on when to begin. The season’s preparations are currently in off-season mode.

Plenty of chances but no finished product

“This year we have the World Championships. Asian Games too and the Diamond League Final. Hopefully, they go well. Asian Games are in October, and I will prepare myself according to the season. Now I am working on Endurance and Fitness with long-distance running, jumps, and gymnastics. I will move on to the specifics after some time.

“I will plan and assess with the coach based on the Asian Games happening per schedule. If it happens, we may start the season late, around June. Depends on the Covid situation. I want to be at my peak for the Asian Games. Other continental leagues are also important.”

Personal Resolutions for 2023

After a path-breaking 2022, which saw him named by World Athletics as the most written-about athlete of the year, Neeraj Chopra has some firm resolutions for 2023. “I want to improve a few things in training, I will try to beat my Personal Best, just like I did last year. This year I hopefully also cross the 90m benchmark. Everything else is going well, the focus is to get a Personal Best.

“I need to make a few subtle improvements, such as working on the blocking leg (front leg). I need to work more on my ankles this year. My technique won’t change much. This year is the most helpful for Paris. I want to keep my fitness levels constant till 2024.

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Fitness update

Chopra missed out on the Commonwealth Games due to a groin strain and has assured everyone of his complete recovery, “Yes everything is going well. Before the off-season, I would roam around and come home, and feed myself well at home. My weight had increased and the first 2-3 weeks are about reducing that. Training is going well right now.”

Heady praise from Michael Johnson

Professional sprinter and World Record Holder Michael Johnson was impressed by Chopra’s athleticism. He put out a tweet in praise of the Indian, who was humbled by the legend’s response. “I get positive vibes from such reactions. My coach Gary Calvert used to say that you are first an athlete, then a Javelin Thrower. Whatever we do, jumps/sprinting or lifting, we need to learn the right techniques. This is why I want to be perfect in my ABCs, which are my sprinting exercises.”

Chopra added on the sprint exercises he performed in the now-viral video, “The sprint exercises are used for warming-up. It’s a mix of this and huddle exercises. It’s to warm the muscles up in my body, and this is why it is done with such a pace that gets maximized around major competitions. I was in Gloria and had to go to Finland, so I was put through the rapid training technique. The video is from then but speed is essential in my sport, and I hope to keep improving myself. I would love to meet him (Johnson), but I still have work to do in the Javelin throw.”

Throwing practice and upcoming schedule

Neeraj Chopra is focussing on strength building during the off-season and is currently training indoors in Loughborough. He said he will switch to Javelin when he shifts base to South Africa, “Currently my training involves throwing heavy balls. Lifting those 8-10 kg balls increases the strength and throwing power of the shoulder. This continues with lower weights too.

“As the weather improves, I will target doing outdoor training in my next camp in South Africa. The weather is good there. Right now, specifically working on my shoulder strength. I am taking a lot of protein in my diet and the training centers have adequate dietary options.”

Handling Pressure and Anxiety to strengthen the mental side of the sport

Handling the expectations of an entire nation can take a toll on an athlete’s performance. To counter this, Neeraj is just focusing on perfecting his technique while training, “Not thought of much, attempt is to perfect my workout technique. Keeping in mind my targets helps me push myself. The feeling after giving your all in training is something else.

“I am not bothered by the pressure of expectations. When I am on the ground, I think and function only as an athlete and don’t get anything else on my mind. People need to realize that ups and downs are all a part of sports.”

The Stockholm Throw

Chopra threw a Personal Best 89.94 in the Stockholm Diamond League leg, missing out on the elusive 90m mark. He feels that the six centimeters could have been achieved in hindsight, “I could have crossed 90m if I landed my foot a few centimeters ahead. Yes, it’s just a matter of six centimeters, but a magical mark for an athlete. It will happen when it has to. It could have happened before, but perhaps God has kept a perfect time and place for that. I will cross the mark and even better it, I have complete belief.”

Eye out on the competitors

A strong field of Javelin Throwers, each with their own individual traits and strengths, provide Neeraj Chopra with the competition he needs to better his game. The Indian has a different strength to focus on. Anderson Peters and Johannes Vetter rely more on raw power, and Neeraj focuses more on his technique and athleticism.

Neeraj feels that “Strength is essential and hand-in-hand with speed and flexibility. I won’t go purely on strength, different body types have different benefits. Getting the right combination is very important.” He adds, “I keep an eye on my competitors through social media but that’s it. I don’t look at what they’re doing and let that influence my plans or training. It’s good if everyone is in the field, fit. It will push me to do better. The competitiveness when everyone is fit and raring to go pushes me to throw better. This will help our sport grow.”

Reigniting India vs Pakistan rivalry

During the Commonwealth Games, it was Neeraj Chopra’s Pakistani counterpart Arshad Nadeem who grabbed gold by crossing 90 meters. While Neeraj sat out with injury, he was unfazed and worked on improving himself. “It’s made a big talking point in India and Pakistan, there will be many players at the Asian Games. I compete as an athlete, and whoever the opposition is, I will give my best.”

German Johannes Vetter returns from a shoulder injury, and Arshad Nadeem has recovered from successful elbow surgery. Chopra is raring to compete in such a packed field. Peters and Chopra went blow for blow last year, and Thomas Rohler too has reached full fitness. 2023 will provide the perfect run-in to the Paris Olympics, and Neeraj has some items on his wish list that he is completely immersed in ticking off.

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