CHENNAI: Neeraj Chopra’s chaotic start seemed inevitable. Especially after the things he has had to endure in the last few months. Just when he started to yearn for international events (his last international event before Thursday came in January 2020), hurdles were strewn in his path. Impediments followed, rejection and dejection became friends. Even when he finally flew to Europe, he had to redirect his destination from Paris to Lisbon for logistical reasons.
So when there was something wrong with the measuring device after he threw the spear to a distance of 80.71m at the Cidade Lisboa athletics meet, it was par for the course. In fact, his best distance of the night 83.18m came after he asked the organisers to manually measure it. That he managed to reach Europe with the prospect of taking part in at least one Diamond League event (London) before going to the Olympics has acted as a balm for his anxious mind. Neeraj, who is one of India’s medal contender in the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo, was more than happy to be there and compete.
Neeraj and his team, including coach Bartonietz Klaus, knew they were not entering a very strong field and the event was not something to talk about. But they needed a beginning. “We knew about who all were competing and my team and the coach told me to not strain too much and need to give my 100 per cent,” Neeraj said after the meet.
Neeraj is fine with the practice venue in Lisbon and will stay there until June 19 before moving to much bigger competitions (Karlstad Grand Prix, a World Athletics Tour bronze meet) on June 22. Next on his radar is the Kuortane Games in Finland on June 26, another bronze level meet. After that, he is targeting Spitzen Leichtathletik at Luzern on June 29. This is a WA World Tour silver meet. Top javelin throwers including the Germans are expected to compete in those meets.
He will then start training in Upsala, Sweden where he had got an invitation to train but could not because of travel restrictions on those travelling from India. Neeraj has settled down and has started practicing. He is keeping a close watch on the world leaders as well. “We are keeping an eye on the top javelin throwers and their performances and training accordingly,” said the 23-year-old national record holder.
Neeraj is quite relaxed and the anxiety on missing out on competitions has calmed down. At least he will now be able to compete with those who will be there at the Olympics, is what he feels. “It had been quite a long time since I had an international experience so this was important,” he said.