CHENNAI: First throws are turning out to be diamonds for Neeraj Chopra. Perfection is what he is aiming for whenever he throws that spear in a competition. “Everything has to be perfect for the throw to reach the 90-m mark,” is what Neeraj keeps saying.
For the Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion, that perfect throw, where everything is in sync and the spear leaves the hand in a swoosh and attains that perfect elevation before turning towards the ground, was achieved, almost, on Thursday at the Diamond League in Stockholm. Chopra knew the javelin would travel quite a distance and even touch 90m the moment he released it. For an athlete who is making a comeback after 10 months, there is no trace of rustiness due to lack of competition.
After the 24-year-old’s trademark tumble and release, as he stood and watched the javelin pierce through the evening sky, he knew it would be another great throw. It landed on the 90m-mark line, .06m off the target at 89.94m. His personal best this season, bettering his earlier throw of 89.30m.
A positive sign before the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. Like in the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku last month, this too was his first throw. However, despite being confident of breaching that magical 90m-mark in his subsequent throws, he could manage 84.37m, 87.46m, 84.77m, 86.67m and 86.84m. Yet, he sounded satisfied with his effort.
“First throw had a good feeling and I am happy to have achieved the new mark,” he said. “And thought 90m was achievable.” He was overtaken by defending world champion Anderson Peters from Granada, who once again threw 90m+ with a monstrous 90.31m in the third attempt. Despite not winning, Neeraj was happy with his performance. “All my throws were good,” he said through voice notes. “Achieving a bigger mark later is not easy as the body also tires after putting in a lot of effort in the previous throws.”
As for 90m, Neeraj felt it is achievable this year. “It is about getting that perfect throw,” he said.
“Everything needs to be perfect. The javelin should go in one line and the technique should be perfect.” As things stand, apart from the fall in extreme conditions in the Kuortane Games, Neeraj had had an incredible run. The Olympic champion and his team -- coach Klaus Bartonietz and physio Ishaan Marwaha -- will now turn their attention to the all-important World Championships in Oregon starting from July 15. Javelin's throw qualification is on July 21 and the final is on July 23.
For Neeraj, the next target would be performing well at the Worlds but dismissed that there is any kind of pressure on them. Yes, Oregon is in his mind, but the outcome of his throw would depend on how he throws on that particular day. “Every day is different and I will know if there is pressure because of being an Olympic champion on the day,” he said. “I usually don’t take too much pressure. I play with an open mind. I train hard and give my 100 per cent. Even in Worlds, I will give my best.”
Another interesting turnaround was noticed on Thursday. Viewership online was very high, something unusual in athletics. Neeraj acknowledged and said it is really good to see so many people watching the sport. "There were a lot of Indian fans here too and it is really heartening to see athletics grow," he said.