STOCKHOLM: Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is confident of breaching the elusive 90m barrier this year but he is not thinking about the coveted mark going into the upcoming World Championships as he feels that would lead to extra pressure.
The 24-year-old is within touching distance of the coveted 90m mark, considered the gold standard in the world of javelin throw.
In his three outings this season, Chopra has improved his personal best twice -- he recorded an 89.30m throw last month at the Paavo Nurmi Games before sending his spear to 89.94m, just 6cm shy of 90m, at the Diamond League Meet here on Thursday.
"Today, I feel good and after the first throw, I thought I could throw even over 90m today. But it is OK as I have more competitions coming this year," Chopra said after his second-place finish. Chopra's opening throw of 89. 94m bagged him his first podium finish at the Diamond League.
"I am close to 90m now and I can throw it this year. Despite the fact that I did not win tonight, I feel very good because I did my best." Chopra finished second behind Grenada's Anderson Peters, who had the best throw of 90.31m in his third attempt.
"When Anderson Peters crossed 90 metres, I too felt that I had to do it. I had in mind that everything should be perfect, the javelin should go in one line and the technique should be perfect. When everything is perfect then only you can throw such long-distance," he said.
"There was competition but I am happy that my all throws were quite good. I am happy with the performance. I am playing after a long time and will look to give my best in the next competition," he added.
Chopra will next compete at the World Championships to be held in Eugene, USA from July 15 to 24.
"I will come to know about that (form) in Oregon. Every competition, every day is different. When I start playing in Oregon I will get to know if I am feeling the pressure of being an Olympic champion. I play with a free mind, pressure is not there in my mind. I train hard and try to give my 100 per cent in competition," he said.
"The legendary Anju Bobby George is the only Indian to have won a World Championships medal in athletics with a long jump bronze in the 2003 edition. There is no pressure that India has only one medal. Not thinking much about what to do at the World Championships. There is not much pressure now but will see how the mindset is once I reach there. We will try our best," Chopra said.
After Chopra's gold at Tokyo, the javelin throw and athletics' popularity have sky-rocketed in India.
"I am happy that everyone is watching athletics back home online also. A lot of Indians had come here and the Indian ambassador had also come, it felt nice that athletics is growing in India," Chopra said.
"Neeraj's throw motivated me": Peter Reigning world champion Peters, who won the Diamond League Meet here, said he was motivated by Chopra's opening throw where the Indian smashed his own national record and improved his personal best.
"Getting the 90m throw was really good, I was very much motivated by Neeraj to get a 90m throw because he started the competition with a PB and an NR and that was pretty good for the start," Peters said.
"The javelin throw community is really good and I am enjoying every competition. We always motivate each other, we want to make sure that everybody is doing ok. We want everybody to perform well. So doing competitions with those guys means a lot to me. The more I compete, the better I become. In Eugene, it will be anybody's game," he added.