What really prompted Neeraj Chopra to skip Commonwealth Games 2022?
Suffering an unfortunate groin injury, reigning Commonwealth Games and Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra will be skipping the Birmingham CWG 2022. Manisha Malhotra, Head of Sports Excellence at JSW Sports explains the reasons.
If there is anything worse than an athlete suffering an injury, it is in not knowing when to stop, take a break, recover, and heal back. The more you ignore the small niggles, the more dangerous are their chances to come back and bite you, if not tended to at once.
So en route to bagging the historic silver medal at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon last Sunday with an 88.13m throw, when Neeraj Chopra briefly hurt his hamstring, we knew what this could possibly mean, given how dreadfully close we were to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022.
The past couple of months and those of rigorous training in the lead-up to the season has been hectic and the close-spaced tournaments with a high level of pressure and bulk of expectations - all of it contribute to taking a toll on the body - both physically as well as mentally.
Yet even a week back, we did not think we'd have to sit and talk about Neeraj Chopra not being able to defend his gold from the Commonwealth Games or come to the difficult decision of having to skip the much-awaited event entirely, give up on the opportunity of being the flagbearer for India - yet some times the body itself intervenes and the right attention needs to be given, to ensure the bigger picture stays intact.
None of it is easy, none of it desirable and if Neeraj would have it his way, he would participate but if there was one thing he was sure of - it was that he cannot be ready in just a week after suffering a Grade 1 strain of the adductor muscle (near the groin area) which is causing discomfort and in the process, entirely ruling out running or sprinting.
The groin is a particularly tricky muscle - to the point that we use it even when we are asleep. Therefore, the question of immobilising it, however temporarily is another bit ruled out, leaving no option but to manage and protect it in a typically conservative manner.
Having consulted the doctor as well, the decision to skip the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 became more real given how the bigger picture with Neeraj is currently placed - taking wise calls and prioritising the health is more necessary than ever, especially for the likes of Neeraj and the sensitive form he is in now, raring to breach the 90m mark.
With the doctor suggesting a three-week period of rest and rehab as well and Neeraj knowing he won't be at his 100% in just a week, where he was scheduled to throw, we knew the decision had to be taken.
What made this slightly easier was knowing that Neeraj has already won the gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Games, making the upcoming Games not entirely unmissable for him given that there was no point pushing it and playing with even the slightest of niggles - as they always come back to bother.
For now, the focus will be on working on rehab for Neeraj at a training centre in Germany's Saarbrücken and figuring out the best training plan to get him back on the field, ready to go as the Diamond League tournaments still remain and Neeraj wouldn't want to end his season this prematurely, yet.
It'll all be about patience and recovery now for Neeraj Chopra to make his comeback again.
[The author is the Head of Sports Excellence and Scouting at JSW Sports and is currently with Neeraj Chopra]