Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Neeraj Chopra is not losing sleep over some of his top international rivals producing big early season performances, but made it clear that he would want to join the 90m club this year.
Reigning world champion in javelin throw Anderson Peters of Grenada and Tokyo Olympics silver winner Jakub Vadlejch of Czech Republic had come up with 93.07m and 90.88m throws respectively in the Doha Diamond League on May 13.
But Chopra is not the one to take pressure, thinking about somebody’s performance.
“I don’t take pressure of distance. Peters and Valdech must be working hard and so doing well. It is also my dream to cross 90m and will try to do that this year in some competition,” Chopra said at a virtual interaction from his training base in Turkey.
“I know competition is tough and growing. It also depends on the day’s performance, weather and other conditions, how we manage them. I normally don’t think about surpassing anybody’s performance or record. I just go out to give my best.” The 24-year-old Chopra is currently training at the Gloria Sports Arena in Antalya, Turkey along with his coach Klaus Bartonietz. He has a personal best of 88.07m and won gold in Tokyo Olympics with a throw of 87.58m.
His first competition of the season will be in Turku, Finland at the Paavo Nurmi Games where he will face Peters, another top thrower Johannes Vetter of Germany who has been thrown over 90m several times.
“I don’t have to hit 90m straightway, 86 or 87m at the start of season will be fine,” said Chopra who will be taking the field for the first time after 10 months since winning gold in Tokyo on August 7 last year.
His next event will be on June 18 at Kuortane Games in Finland where he had finished third last year with Vetter taking the gold before the Tokyo Olympics.
Chopra is planning to feature in the top-flight Diamond League Meeting in Stockholm on June 30 before heading for the July 15-24 World Championships in Eugene, USA.
Vetter couldn’t make an impact at the Olympics after he produced a series of 90m-plus throws in the lead-up to the Games in Tokyo. He was eliminated after the first three throws in the final.
“My main target this year is to do well in World Championships. Then there is the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (July 28 to August 8) where I will defend my gold (won in 2018 CWG).” He had earlier said that winning a medal in the World Championships will be his main target this year. Chopra said he may or may not take part in the Monaco Diamond League (August 10) which happens just a couple of days after the CWG. He will also decide whether to take part in the Lausanne leg of the Diamond League on August 26.
“We will take a call after the CWG whether to take part in Monaco Diamond League or not, whether to go for (Diamond League) points or not.
“We had planned earlier considering the Asian Games. As the Asian Games are postponed we may rework our plans.” Then, there is Diamond League Final in Zurich on September 7 and 8, if Chopra qualifies.
“My aim is also to end season injury free. I am starting 40-45 days before the World Championships so that I can peak there. I am going to have three events next month in the space of just over two weeks.
“Initially, I had planned to compete in Doha Diamond League (May 13) but dropped later. I could have started a bit early had we known that Asian Games would be postponed.” Asked about his training and preparations for the season ahead, he said, “The off season was good. I have started throwing training, two throwing sessions in a week. I also do sprinting, lifting weight etc. I have started working on my technique , on my runway, picking up speed and blocking.
“I don’t need to make major changes, mostly focussing on my technique, which angle I have to throw, on my blocking, from where I have to start my runway. I don’t want to get injured while doing major changes. ” Chopra had the likes of Vetter and 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist Thomas Rohler for company at Antalya for a few days. Javelin world record holder Jan Zelezny of Czech Republic was also there for some time.
“I had interactions with them but not much. We generally talked about the state of javelin throw in the world and in India. Sometimes, we also speak about our technique. I don’t feel like a star in front of Zelezny. They came for training and had left now. Two top Indian athletes failed dope tests recently and Chopra urged the youngsters to shun shortcut to success.
“My message is don’t go for short cut to success. Work hard with patience. You will achieve your dream with time. I am not talking about any individual here but you can take care of things you can control like having good food, proper rest and sleep, hard work and belief in yourself.”