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Star Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra looks abroad to better his best

Neeraj Chopra shot to fame when an 86.48M throw created history at the U-20 World Championships in Poland two years back.

Published: 21st April 2018 01:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st April 2018 08:40 AM   |  A+A-

Neeraj Chopra won gold at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games. (File photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: 86.48M. The throw created history at the U-20 World Championships in Poland two years back. Neeraj Chopra suddenly shot to fame and became the first Indian to set an athletics world record at any level. Overnight, along with stardom, came expectations. And the 20-year-old has handled it well so far. Since that day in Poland, Neeraj has won a few medals including gold at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games. Yet, there is one thing that has eluded the 20-year-old. He has never been able to better his own record of 86.48m. The boy from Haryana came agonisingly close to getting past that mark in Gold Coast. But he was unlucky.

Ahead of the Diamond League in Doha, Neeraj is not short of exposure. His training stint in Germany had a role to play in that. Though it created a difference of opinion between the federation and the player, it turned out to be a good decision after all, according to the athlete. Neeraj received a lot of flak for deciding to train abroad without the supervision of the federation. But he doesn’t regret it. “The time I spent in Germany was very helpful for me to understand how the best athletes train. Champions like Johannes Vetter train at the facility and I was able to learn a lot by just being there,” he told Express. With a busy calendar ahead, Neeraj is not sure of his future plans.

Though Tokyo 2020 is the long-term target, the need to improve his distance is his primary focus. And it won’t be easy. You need the best of facilities and trainers. After landing in Delhi two days back, Neeraj said he wanted to hit the 90m mark. But he won’t be satisfied with a one-of throw. “I am training to reach the levels where I can throw that distance consistently. Competing against world-class throwers is also important, and I’m hoping to gain good experience at the Diamond Leagues which will have a field of some of the world’s best athletes.

“Currently, I am focussed on my next competition, the Doha Diamond League. The Commonwealth Games gold was an important target, and I am happy to have achieved it. I will discuss with my coach as to what the best place for me to train would be,” he added. Whether or not he trains in the country, the question is if he really can compete with the elite throwers.

Vetter (94.44), Thomas R Hler (93.90) and Jan Elezn (98.48) — the top three in the alltime list of top 25 javelin throwers — will be his main opponents. They won’t sit back and let Neeraj take the throne. So, is he really the ‘special’ talent people are claiming him to be? We have to wait and see if he can become a world beater. But for now, Neeraj seems relaxed. “I’m feeling good about my form at the moment. Even at Gold Coast, I was feeling positive after my practice throws and got close to breaking my best. I hope to better it soon. There are many factors that need to go right to achieve a personal best. I feel I’m close to doing so.”

vimalsankar@newindianexpress.com



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