On your marks, get set for Neeraj Chopra

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Usually, before a major competition, Neeraj Chopra does not like to delve too much into results and consequences. His coach, Klaus Bartonietz, tries to evoke a kind of calmness in him. Like a hermit, Neeraj prefers to cut himself off from the distractions of the mortal world. He would rather focus steadfastly on the job at hand. After the Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold, with millions of eyes peering into that throw of the spear from the 24-year-old on the day of the final, that job has just become a little harder. 

Neeraj’s concentration is unflappable and as he said during a virtual interaction, “I focus on the job, that perfect throw and results will follow.” Yes, there is pressure, but nothing human beings can’t adapt to. His coach Klaus Bartonietz too tells him to go out and enjoy rather than “we need to do this or that”. Listening to music, preparing mentally and some mirth in between are some of the rituals he undertakes. Training in Chula Vista was ideal too as “we have to adjust with US timing so there was no point training in India and also the weather here is very good.” If everything goes as per plan, he will be the second Indian to win a medal at Worlds after Anju Bobby George (long jump, 2003).

On his last day in Chula Vista (evening in the US and morning in India), he found time to speak about the Worlds in Eugene, Oregon, beginning on July 15. He and the rest of the Indian team training and acclimatising in Chula Vista will leave for Oregon late at night on Wednesday and would reach by Thursday. Neeraj talked about his training, how, as of now, he is in fine fettle. Also, going by his previous three throws at international events, confidence and consistency, the two words he would love to cling on to dearly, is flowing. 

“I have managed to throw very close to 90m (89.94m in Stockholm). It’s close to 90m, so training and preparation are good,” he said. Going forward, though competing at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games right after World Championships in very short intervals would be a challenge, Neeraj is not overly worried. He talked about the Zurich Diamond Final in 2018, which had just a two-day gap after the Asian Games in Jakarta. “We have to adjust with the time in CWG and I think it should not be a problem,” he said.

However, Neeraj acknowledged that the Worlds, in terms of competition will not be easy. Though he has been consistent with throws above 89m, Grenada’s Anderson Peters has already crossed 90m thrice this season with a best of 93.07m at Doha in May. Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch too managed 90.88m. “All the big players like Anderson Peters, Jakub Valdech and Oliver Helander are there and the competition in javelin will be very intense,” Neeraj said. 

Like all players, Neeraj remembers his last Worlds in 2017 (London), not for the mark he managed but for the experience he had and the lessons he learnt. “I have learnt during such competition where there is qualifying, one has to start giving his best right from the start. I thought I could throw 83m but I couldn’t.” His advice to his teammate Rohit Yadav too would be this, besides asking him to go out there and enjoy and give his best.

Neeraj also liked to be among his teammates and was happy to cross-train with long-jumpers, sprinters and other throwers. “I am meeting them after a long time so it was nice to share some quality time with them and even liked training with them.”

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