Neeraj Chopra — The Olympic gold medalist who is still hungry for more
What is motivating Neeraj Chopra to keep improving despite an Olympic gold in Track and Field that was elusive to India for 70 years - Manisha Malhotra explores.
"Abhi bhi bhook baaki hai (I still have a lot of hunger)," Neeraj Chopra says at the Indira Gandhi International Airport waiting for his flight en route to California. The Indian javelin thrower shifted his training base to the United States to begin Mission Paris 2024. Many argue that since he has already won an Olympic gold, the tall and muscular Haryanvi athlete would lack motivation - isn't everything an athlete wants to achieve done and dusted after you get that yellow metal in your hand? But when you sit and talk to Neeraj Chopra, you would find he is still not satisfied - his mind seems to have already traveled from the Tokyo gold and is magnetically moving towards the glimmer of Parisian lights.
"Winning a gold medal feels good but I still have a target I need to achieve," he says, still no airs about him, no matter how he may have been transformed into a colossus and somebody straight out of mythic folklore for Indians.
For starters, the 24-year-old still aims to officially breach the 90-plus mark, something that his competitors Sebastian Vetter (Germany), Keshorn Walcott (Trinidad and Tobago), and Julian Weber (Germany) have already passed.
Neeraj understands that getting comfortable with his personal best of 88.08m – he threw 87.58m at Olympics – will not always help him find the podium. It's not like the 6ft tall thrower has not breached the 90m mark yet.
The Haryana-born managed to throw the javelin past the coveted 90m mark twice during training sessions in Tokyo. While it was a big confidence booster, Neeraj still needs to make it a habit like Sebastian Vetter who crossed the 90m mark nine times before coming to Tokyo.
While this entire 'crossing the 90m-barrier' has become a normal thing whenever there is a talk about Neeraj Chopra's goals, there is more to it than meets the common eyes.
He also wants to be a World Champion. The javelin thrower has never been a world champion. Yes, he did become a Junior World Champion in 2016, where he also broke the world record with a throw of 86.48m.
But what is Neeraj Chopra's driving force? What is motivating him to keep improving despite an Olympic gold in Track and Field that was elusive to India for 70 years?
In his own simple words "Abhi body mei bhot gunjaish baaki hai."
Was Neeraj Chopra's gold-medal winning throw good enough, though?
Neeraj Chopra might have won the gold medal for India but his coach Klaus Bartoniez still thinks it was not a good throw.
During a function, while sitting beside Klaus and dissecting Neeraj's Olympic throw, the German bio-mechanical coach said there was too much bend in the knee which restricted his movement. Plus even the position of the elbow was a little off. Klaus isn't a man to please happily but Neeraj isn't also someone to
To this, Neeraj stands up and says, "Coach bol rahe hain abhi iss body mei bhot kaam baaki hai".
Not only Neeraj is a model athlete, but he is also termed by many as a 'Greek God', but he also knows also how to use it. He is always thinking: How can I do it better? How can I throw the javelin farther? What are other training methods needed to improve?
He does a lot of reflecting. While some athletes stop all this after the coveted Olympic gold, Neeraj's hunger keeps growing. He understands the famous Chinese saying of 'The teacher opens the door and you must find the knowledge yourself' very well. It is this mantra that has been his motto and continues to drive through the thick and thin.
In one such instance, in the US, he had an option to train in Orlando too, where he could train with gymnasts on a parallel bar to increase his body control. But the gym was a little far from the training center, which he thought would be crucial time wasted.
So, he decided to stick to Chula Vista Training Centre, where everything needed is at arm's length.
It is uncommon for an athlete to land at the Olympic Games and win a medal on debut let alone a gold. Even legendary sprinter Usain Bolt finds himself on this list. The Jamaican failed to crack the code in 2004 Athens before becoming a permanent resident of the Mt. Olympus. But Neeraj Chopra did the unthinkable.
He now wants to stamp his authority in his discipline and join the legends as a permanent residence amongst Mt.Olympus residence.