Olympic gold medalist Neeraj Chopra on Monday admitted that his priority at the moment is the World Championship, saying “It’s important to be injury free but I have to work on my fitness, especially before the world championships. I need to give myself time to prepare. I had to travel a bit because of the injury and because of that, I had to reduce the amount of training I did. Now I have to push myself. I had focused on the injury and now have to focus on my training.”
After the World Championships: “We have tournaments every 15 days. I think I already have enough points to qualify for the World Diamond League Finals. This time the rule is the best six will compete in the diamond league finals. I think I have 16 points (based on two wins at Doha and Lausanne)which is enough. But in case I feel I am injury free; I might take part in another. We have the Diamond League in Zurich, then the Diamond League finals and then the Asian Games. We have to see how we compete in those events.”
“Right now, I will focus on getting properly fit for Budapest. There’s no pressure of doing well at the Diamond League final. If I prepare well for Budapest, my fitness will last me for a long time. We will be mentally strong not just there (Worlds) but for the remainder of the season as well. I’ve not decided whether to take part in the Monaco Diamond League. We have 20 days’ time to decide. If we feel fitness is good, we will go but right now it seems I will go to worlds directly. If we prepare for that, my injury and physical fitness will improve.” he opined
At a virtual press conference organised by Sports Authority of India (SAI) Neeraj was asked about getting the elusive 90m mark and the champion thrower replied “Whether I get that 90m throw depends on the right time and conditions. I missed a few tournaments because of my recovery. The weather was good in these tournaments. If I had taken part in these tournaments, I think I might have had a chance of getting to that 90m mark. In Lausanne, the conditions were not so good. It was cold and raining. With respect to those conditions, my throw was good. We have some big competition. We have the Worlds and the Asian Games. I still have time to prepare for those. There’s no real pressure (to get to 90m).”
“The only thing I think of is to throw as best as I can. I might not have got the 90m throw but for that, you need the right time and I know it will come somewhere. The (90m) throw will come. It’s more important to win. That is the target. When the conditions are good and I have been able to work on my fitness, then it will come.”
To a query about his finishing at top amid a very strong field at Lausanne, Neeraj said that most of the top competitions are in Europe. The problem we face is when we go from hot conditions to cold ones. We are used to the heat and have an issue in cold conditions. It’s different for Europeans who are used to this. In Lausanne, I was feeling cold even while I was wearing a jacket. It wasn’t easy to stay warmed up. On the other hand, the European athletes were in their shorts. It’s very different. Asia is challenging for them, he added.
“In such conditions I was focused . In my mind, I want to give 100 per cent in each throw. But I can’t throw 89m all the time. That number will go up and down. Some throws will go far, some less. My first throw usually goes well. But if by chance it doesn’t go, I always say I have to keep myself ready until the last throw. I have that belief that until the last throw, I still have the ability to make a good throw. “
He said participating in Lausanne after nearly two months he felt a difference both physically and mentally. “I was really physically fit at the Doha Diamond League. But after the muscle strain, the focus was on injury and rehabilitation. Because of that, my fitness was a little less than what it was. That affected me mentally as well. If you have a problem in the middle of the season, you think ‘how will I manage this? Will I be able to return before the season is over?’. The main target in the Diamond League is to get points to qualify for the Diamond League finals. If I was in the Worlds or Asian Games, I would probably have pushed myself a little bit more.
Asked if he goes into a tournament with a specific strategy ,” My strategy is always just to throw as far as I can. It’s not that I was waiting till the fifth throw. It’s always that I have to warm up. There’s no real strategy (on deciding which throw to put effort into). If the first throw is good, you feel positive and the other competitors feel some pressure. I always try to get a good first throw. But if it doesn’t go, you have to try your best till the end. Again, it doesn’t mean that just because I throw a big throw, I will have to win .In (last year’s) Stockholm Diamond League, I threw 89 meters and then (Anderson) Peters threw 90m. You have to stay prepared till the last throw.
“It’s true that I usually have a very good first throw but there have been times when I have done well in the last throws as well. I was nowhere in the competition at the (2017) Asian Championships until the final throw where I managed to win. I want to say there’s no difference between the first and last throws. I keep myself ready till the last throw.”
He also talked about Injury management saying “At the start of the season, training was going well and I was injury free. But staying free from injury is not in the athlete’s hands. Once that happens, it takes time to recover. TOPS, SAI and the Athletics Federation of India have supported me a lot. It also helps that I have a good team. We got to speak to the doctor and I was able to take advice and start working on it immediately. The only thing I have to take care of is injury. If that happens, everything else will go smoothly.