A history-making Olympic gold in his pocket and having won the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games titles, star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is now targeting a top podium finish in the World Athletics Championships to be held in USA next year. The World Championships was to be held this year in Eugene, Oregon, in US but was pushed to 2022 after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was postponed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will now be held from July 15-24, 2022.
"I have already won gold in Asian Games and Commonwealth Games and now an Olympic gold. So my next target is winning gold in World Championships," Chopra said during a press conference arranged by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to felicitate him. Chopra scripted history on Saturday when he clinched India's elusive Olympic medal in athletics to become only the second Indian to win the yellow metal in an individual event with a best throw of 87.58m in the final. World Championships is big a competition and sometimes tougher than the Olympics. I am not going to be content with this Olympic gold and sit on this laurel. I would like to do even better and win gold again in Asian Games, CWG and again in Olympics."
"That is the medal which is with Anju madam and I want to win it," said Chopra with legendary Anju Bobby George, who won a bronze in the 2003 World Championships in Paris in women's long jump, at his side. The 23-year-old superstar also felt that his inclusion in the national camp by AFI in 2015 despite finishing fifth during the National Games in Kerala was a turning point in his career. Before joining the national camp in early 2015, he was training at Tau Devi Lal Stadium at Panchkula after being shifted from Shivaji Stadium at Panipat.
"We did good training but the facilities, equipment, diet were not that good (at Panchkula) but once I joined the national camp (at NIS Patiala) everything changed. I got better facilities, better diet and equipment only after joining national camp. And the most important thing is the feeling that I am training along with the best javelin throwers of this country. That is a different feeling. So, joining the national camp changed my career and I want to thank the AFI for that." After joining the national camp, Chopra was first with late Australian coach Gary Calvert. After that, he was under former world record holder Uwe Hohn before switching to train under bio-mechanics expert Klaus Bertonietz who accompanied Chopra to Tokyo.
"I respect Hohn sir, I won gold in 2018 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games under him. But his technical approach and style of training was different. I told him that I want to work with Klaus sir. His (Klaus') training plans were good and suited me. He plans training according to the body of the athlete, he has also worked with a lot of athletes in different countries." Asked if he now realises the magnitude of his feat, Chopra said, "I wasn't believing that I have won gold. I was asking myself whether this is a dream but I realised that the gold medal is with me. So this is not a dream."
Asked about strict COVID-19 protocols and dope testing in Tokyo, he said, "Regarding dope test, when we are in camps, we have to give samples any time of the day. In my case, they (dope testers) woke me up early in the morning thrice. When I reached Tokyo from Sweden (where he was training before Olympics), there was a big time difference, so it was difficult for me to adjust my sleeping time. Regarding COVID protocols, there was a bit of difficulty but not much and everybody faced it. It was a not a difficult test, it was not RT PCR test but we had to give sample by spitting." Chopra said he will have to make changes in the angle of release of the javelin to be able to cross the 90m mark.
"90m mark is my dream and I will have to work with my coach to achieve that. I wanted to do it this year but Olympic gold is there, the most important thing." Talking about German superstar Johannes Vetter, who came to Tokyo as the gold medal favourite but failed to make the last eight in the final, Chopra said, "He is my good friend. He couldn't do well in the Olympics but he is still a very good javelin thrower. "He has six-seven 90m plus throws this year and his best was near the world record of Jan Zelezny. I respect him a lot and I asked my countrymen to respect him." Before the Tokyo Games, Vetter had said that it will be tough for Chopra to beat him in the Olympics.
Kamalpreet Kaur, who finished sixth in the women's discus throw, rued the lack of international competitions before the Olympics due to the pandemic. "I did not get international competitions before Olympics. I hope to do better in World Championships next year," said Kaur. "My coach (Rakhi Tyagi) told me not to be overawed by the reputation of the competitors and I just did that. I was trying for my personal best but could not do that." Avinash Sable, who set a new national record in men's 3000m steeplechase but failed to qualify for the final, said he was infected by COVID-19 twice before the Olympics. The men's 4x400m relay quartet of Mohammed Anas Yahiya, Rajiv Arokia, Noah Tom Nirmal and Amoj Jacob, who shattered the Asian record but failed to qualify for the final, were also present.