Having achieved 89.94 m in Stockholm on June 30, 2022, India’s Olympic gold medallist javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra was expected to cross the psychological 90 m mark.
Chopra, the Tokyo Olympic Games winner, the Diamond League Final winner, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist and the World Championship silver medallist, has faced questions for the last many months on when he would be able to cross the 90 m distance in international competitions.
The question has once again cropped up on the eve of the 2023 Athletics World Championship in Budapest, Hungary.
Chopra said he is close to achieving this feat and needs just one perfect day with favourable weather conditions to achieve it.
“Definitely, I’m close. I just need one perfect day with favourable weather conditions, and I am confident I’ll be able to achieve the throw,” Neeraj Chopra said in an exclusive interview with JioCinema.
In the interview, the 25-year-old Chopra said he is not keeping a target in mind going into World Championships in Budapest and also set out his priorities, whether it is about his preparations for the Olympics or his favourite dish made from ghee.
The Armyman from Haryana, who called Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem a skillful thrower, said he was not feeling the pressure of expectations.
“I have somewhat become accustomed to handling pressure. However, when I participate in competitions that occur once every two to four years (like the World Championships and the Olympics), there is undoubtedly a sense of responsibility. But I always give my hundred per cent and perform with complete focus. Initially, there were other factors which used to overwhelm me but gradually I have gotten used to it,” Chopra was quoted as saying in a release on Friday.
Chopra, who is coming back from an injury that made him miss some key events and opportunities for preparations, said at Budapest, he is just hoping to give his best without fear of injury.
“Competing and being consistent at the highest level against the world’s best athletes is definitely challenging. At the beginning of the year, I had prepared quite well, but then I got injured which led me to skip a few competitions. After that, I returned and participated in the Lausanne Diamond League, where my performance was good. Since then, everything has gotten better, and I am happy with my performance and training.
“For me, the most important thing is to be mentally prepared for the challenge knowing that the World Championships is approaching, and I want to perform well there. I’m not carrying a specific throwing distance or medal target in my mind, but it’s important that when I compete there – I don’t want to have any fear of injury or anything else on my mind. I want to give it my best, and if that happens, I will come back better than before,” said Chopra, who listed the traditional dish Choorma as his favourite made from ghee.
Asked whom does he consider the top contender for the gold at the World Championship, there are quite a few throwers who have crossed the 90m mark.
“Some are experienced senior athletes, while others have recently performed well. However, I won’t mention names because you never really can be sure. I remember during the 2019 World Championships, we were discussing amongst ourselves and chose three throwers who we thought would perform well and win medals, but they weren’t on that list. So, I believe one should focus on themselves and give it their best because these competitions are highly unpredictable, and nobody really knows how someone has prepared. We shouldn’t fear or underestimate anyone too much,” Chopra said in the interview.