NEW DELHI: The Athletics Federation of India's (AFI) appreciation of German coach Klaus Bartonietz, who helped guide javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra to gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games, speaks a lot about the commitment the bio-mechanics expert brought to the table when he started training the Indian for the big event.
On Sunday, the AFI tweeted, "Thank you 'King Klaus' for making #NeerajChopara the New OLYMPIC CHAMPION."
In response, Bartonietz, who took over as Chopra's coach from compatriot and javelin throw legend Uwe Hohn in late 2019, posted a video saying, "I feel overwhelming joy joy for Neeraj that he could win not just bronze, but gold. He became the best javelin thrower in the world. It's a great joy for the Athletics Federation of India and for all people who are interested in athletics in India."
In November 2019, the AFI, keeping Tokyo 2020 in mind, had turned to Bartonietz to help out Chopra before the Athletics Central North East Meeting in Potchefstroom, South Africa in January 2020, which was an Olympic qualification event.
Chopra made an impressive return to the circuit after recovering from an elbow injury with a throw of 87.86 metres in Potchefstroom to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
The AFI had reportedly taken the decision in late 2019 that Chopra would not train with Hohn, keeping the "preference of the athlete in mind."
"Chopra respects Hohn because it was while training with him that he won the (2018) Asian Games and the (2018) Commonwealth Games gold and set the national record. However, he wanted a change when it came to the training method," an AFI official had told Indian Express in November 2019.
"Chopra felt that he may not be able to handle the volume of the workload Hohn would have wanted him to do. He has trained with Hohn for two years and there is nothing wrong in wanting to train with Bartonietz. There is nothing personal in him wanting to change the coach."
AFI's gamble seems to have worked.