Klaus watch on Neeraj ahead of bigger challenges

Coach Bartonietz optimistic after strong start to season, feels Olympic champion is capable of breaching 90m mark

Published: 25th June 2022 05:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th June 2022 05:40 AM   |  A+A-

Neeraj Chopra with his coach Klaus Bartonietz(R) and physio Ishan Marwaha en route Olympic Training Centre at Kuortane (Finland). (Photo | Special Arrangement)

Express News Service

There is a certain calmness about Klaus Bartonietz. Always relaxed, he never gets frazzled or overtly excited despite the enormity of the situation. His words are always measured and he never likes to count chickens before they are hatched. Balance is what he believes in. Training an Olympic champion from India is not easy and maintaining the performance is harder.

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra opened his season with a personal best throw of 89.30m, an effort that has set the tone for the season ahead. Bartonietz is a relieved man. Neeraj started the season late and it was on June 14 at Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland that he threw the spear in a competition for the first time this year, almost 10 months after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold medal on August 7 last year.

"We started our training late so we began our season late," was a simple answer from the 73-year-old German coach, currently training in Uppsala (near Stockholm). "What can you say about the start? Getting your personal best in the season opener is very good."

However, the training did not begin the way he would have liked it but once they shifted to Chula Vista in the US, it gradually picked up. "Conditions were not ideal for training at times but we made the best of whatever we got," he said. "After shifting to the US, training picked up. In January, we started with short javelin throws. And then long. We did some throws with a medicine ball. The training was effective. We had to make sure there is no injury. Yes, we would love to have a few more gymnastics sessions, but we couldn't. We had to adjust as we moved from general to specific training."

After shifting to Turkey from the US, Neeraj's training intensified and by June, he was ready. "He looks fine," said Bartonietz.

"Opening the season with 89.30m personal best is very good. He can only improve as we go into the season. Yes, there is talk about 90m but for me, it's just a number. It's more of a psychological blot. And of course, Neeraj is capable of clearing that. He has to control the javelin properly and get a clean throw. One good throw at that moment with good control is enough."

As Neeraj shifts his attention towards Diamond League in Stockholm on June 30, Bartonietz feels optimistic. "The field is very good with all top throwers in the fray," he said. "Neeraj just had one proper event before coming here as the previous one in Kourtane, he did not throw beyond three rounds, so we have to see. But I am optimistic."

Bartonietz said that two of the throwers have thrown above 90 metres and despite those chatter of it being wind-aided, the coach felt no matter what the condition, clearing 90m is always daunting. One has to adjust the throw of the javelin and control it.

Neeraj's slip in Kuortane was scary. The coach was rattled when he saw him slip and was relieved to see him get up and walk without any pain. "It happens in competitions," he said. "It was raining and cold. It was an absolutely new track. It was prepared for this meet and was a little hard and slippery."

As he enters the most challenging phase of the season, he harbours the dream of visiting Spiti Valley soon. The beauty and serenity of the Himalayas are luring him but before that, the task in hand.

With World Championships and Commonwealth Games lined up in quick succession, Neeraj's coach felt it all depends on a good recovery. "He should have a good physio session, sleep well and reach Birmingham and acclimatise with the time and weather," said Bartonietz. Neeraj is expected to shift base to the US next month after the Diamond League for the World Championships in Oregon.

Though Neeraj and his team have been training abroad for so long, the coach felt they are not missing home. He, Neeraj and his physio Ishaan Marwaha are a family, sharing happy and sad moments together. In fact, staying away from home is a blessing in disguise too as there is less distraction. But the coach says distractions are part of athletes' growing process. "Those are the challenges athletes have to live with," he said talking about Neeraj's numerous social obligations when he is at home. "They (social obligations) are part of an athletes' career. Society is always behind the athlete and the athlete has to give back to the society. They won't know much about training. One has to balance."


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