'I'm not the greatest of all time': Neeraj Chopra says he has a lot to improve and achieve
Neeraj Chopra thumped Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem for the top of the podium finish. But he denied any rivalry with Nadeem, who won the silver medal.
Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra ticked all the boxes on Sunday night by winning the long-awaited World Athletics Championships gold medal in Budapest. Chopra's second throw of 88.17 meters was enough for him to complete the rare Olympic and Worlds double. Chopra won the Olympic gold medal (87.58m) in 2021 in Tokyo.
He also became the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal at the World Championships.
After his historic achievement, Chopra, in an interaction with the media, said, "It is a special feeling to win both the Olympics and the World Championships. The World is a little tougher than the Olympics. I am happy that I won with two more Indian athletes (Kishore Jena and DP Manu) in the final."
Chopra thumped Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem, the reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist, for the top of the podium finish. Nadeem, 26, took the silver with a season’s best effort of 87.82m. Nadeem was returning to the international competition after surgery and rehabilitation.
However, Chopra denied any rivalry between the two as they feel proud of being the Asians taking the top two places on the podium.
"I felt good that Arshad did well. When we met after the competition, he said that he was happy with both of us doing well. It is good to dominate as Europeans were the top athletes before. It will be good to compete against him at the Asian Games," Chopra said.
The Indian athlete has had now two World Championships medals to his credit. He won the silver medal at the 2022 World Championships. And he has won all major international events up for grabs. From the Olympics, and World Championships to Diamond League Finals to Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, Chopra won everything at just 25.
Asked about his response to being called a GOAT - Greatest of All Time - Chopra, in his usual grounded demeanour, refused to bask in such debate. "I will never say that about myself," he said, adding, "Everyone said only the World Championships medal was left for me to win, but I feel there is still more for me to improve on and that I need to throw better. I have a lot more to achieve and I have to push for it."
'Throwers don't have a finish line'
Chopra, however, does not see any reason for slowing down even after achieving all the top honours in the world of sports. He is rather motivated to go for more gold medals and better throws.
"Throwers do not have a finish line. No matter how many medals you win, there will always be the motivation that you can throw further. To win a medal does not mean we have won everything. Many athletes have won the same medal multiple times- on the question of his motivation," he added.
Chopra, however, said he will leave the target of hitting 90m throw to time. It is a target that continues to elude him even though he won all his titles with near 90m throws.
"I have left the 90m mark to time now. I have been consistently throwing around the 88m mark and came close to 90m but it depends on the day. I am just waiting for that day," said the athlete from Haryana.
"During the final (at the Worlds), I had thought about hitting the 90m mark but now I feel it was more important to win a medal. I have been winning against 90m throwers without hitting the 90m mark. I value consistency more than the mark," Chopra added.
Words of encouragement for fellow athletes
The regaining Olympic champion also has words of encouragement for his fellow throwers Kishore Kumar Jena (84.77m) and DP Manu (84.14m), who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the final.
"I am very happy for Kishore and Manu. Kishore registered a personal best and Manu also threw well. We have set a high benchmark now with three Indians in the final and finishing in the top 6. This will only boost everyone's confidence," said Chopra.
Being the most successful and influential Indian athlete in the international arena, Chopra has also offered his advice to fellow athletes from other disciplines.
"I spoke to (Murali) Sreeshankar and Avinash (Sable) about their results. I think they know where they made the mistake and I just asked them to learn from it and not feel very sad. I told them to think about what they lacked here at the World Championships and to train in such a manner that they do not repeat the mistakes," said Chopra.