The 22-years old athlete spoke exclusively to Khel Now about many things including his comeback from a big injury.
India have never won an Olympic medal in Athletics. ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh and ‘Payyoli Express’ PT Usha came close, but they too failed to create history and for a long time the nation forgot to dream of an Olympic medal in Athletics. However, India’s hopes have been rekindled in Neeraj Chopra.
Coming from a small village in Haryana, Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has created a lot of buzz in the sporting circuit in the last couple of years. Chopra had a stellar year in 2018 as he won gold medals in both the Commonwealth and Asian games respectively before getting an elbow injury in 2019.
Although, it didn’t affect his determination. Neeraj made a strong comeback in 2020 with an 87.86 meters throw at the Athletics Central North East meeting in South Africa and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics as well. He is one of India’s biggest medal prospects at the upcoming Olympics.
“It is always difficult to compete in a 87 meters throw after coming back from an injury. I played in a competition after a long time; it took me almost one and half years to come back on the track,” Neeraj Chopra said to Khel Now.
“I regained my fitness last year but I didn’t play in tournaments because we decided that I should get fully fit before making a comeback. I felt good during my training sessions; my throws were going good so we decided that I can play in the tournaments now.”
Neeraj also quipped that he knows about the high expectations from him and it motivates him to give his 100 percent in every tournament. He remarked, “I think it’s a good thing that the people of this country have high expectations from me. They want me to win a medal for India and I am working hard for it as well.”
“I don’t get nervous due to high expectations, I made a comeback with a good throw after a long injury and my training is also going fine. So, let’s see how I perform in the upcoming tournaments. I am not nervous, I am totally motivated.”
Having spent all of 2019 out of action due to an elbow injury, he was only starting to get into the groove this year when the coronavirus pandemic forced him to leave his coaching camp in Turkey and come back to India.
“Yeah, coronavirus is affecting everything. Many tournaments have already been cancelled due to the pandemic. I have already qualified for the Olympics, although many athletes are still hoping to qualify for Tokyo and they don’t have enough qualifying tournaments,” Neeraj Chopra said.
“Cancellation of the Olympics this year will affect us a little bit but we will give our 100 percent next year. Once the situation with coronavirus gets over then I will try to play in the Diamond League as well. I will try to play in every possible competition before the Olympics.”
Tokyo Olympics has already been pushed to 2021 due to the pandemic. It will take place in the months of July and August and heat could be a problem for athletes, however, Neeraj Chopra feels mental strength will be essential to tackle the atmosphere.
“I don’t think that heat will affect us at the Tokyo Olympics. We have played in the scorching heat many times in different competitions. We can adjust as per conditions, but the thing is you should entertain this thought in your mind that the heat would be an issue and how would I play in such conditions. You should be mentally strong,” he opined.
Neeraj used to train under the German legend Uwe Hohn, who currently holds the world record in the Javelin throw (104.80 meters), but now he trains under Dr. Klaus Bartonietz who is also a biomechanics expert. Neeraj agreed that training under a new coach has changed the way he trains.
“I used to work more on strength training under Uwe Holm. Klaus works more on my technique. Every coach has a different philosophy of training, I work more on different activities of Javeline these days and since he is a biomechanics expert, so we take our technique deeply,” he explained.
“My throw sometimes goes awry, which affected me in the continental cup also as I did a foul there. I am working hard on this aspect of my game, I lost a medal due to this problem in the 2018 IAFF Continental Cup and I don’t want to repeat that. If I make a foul because of a bad throw then it is harmful and I am working hard on this thing to keep my throw within the sector.”
Neeraj Chopra is currently staying at the NIS Patiala and he will spend the rest of the two weeks of the 21-days national lockdown in the institute.