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Olympics or not, javelin star Neeraj Chopra is ready to conquer

The Tokyo Games may get delayed due to coronavirus, but that doesn’t change the fact that Neeraj Chopra’s form has been encouraging.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Mar 18, 2020, 08.38 AM IST
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Chopra’s idol is the Czech javelin thrower Jan Zelezny, who holds the world record in the sport (98.48 metres).
Chopra’s idol is the Czech javelin thrower Jan Zelezny, who holds the world record in the sport (98.48 metres).
There is a question mark over the Olympics. But not over the form of javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra. Irrespective of the fate of Tokyo 2020, Chopra is happy with the way he qualified for the Games.

After the agony of an elbow injury and surgery in 2019, this year started better for the 22-year old. An 87.86-metre throw at the ACNW League Meeting in Potchefstroom, South Africa, secured an Olympic spot for him.

“That performance gave me confidence, since it was my first competition after the injury that made me miss the entire 2019 season,” Chopra told ETPanache from Antalya, Turkey, where he has been training for a while (and is now awaiting a ticket to return to India due to the coronavirus outbreak). “The biggest motivating factor during the rehabilitation phase was being fit to qualify for Tokyo. They say a lion always takes a step back before attacking, I think of a setback [injury] in an athlete’s life is like that. I am still short of competition experience and have only just recovered, so I will continue to work on my elbow and my training such that I can be at my peak at the Olympics.”

Chopra did not want to comment on the possibility of coronavirus derailing the Olympics.

Going the distance
Last year, when Chopra was out of action, he had to see two of his rivals throw the javelin beyond 90 metres. Estonia’s Magnus Kirt managed 90.61 metres while Germany’s Johannes Vetter hurled 90.03 metres.

“In terms of distances, I try not to think about it so much as it is completely a function of how you throw on the day. Some days, an 85 metres throw can get you a gold and some days even an 87 metres plus throw can see you miss out on a podium. I like to focus on what I can control,” says Chopra, the reigning Asian champion.

Chopra carries the pressure of being one of India’s few medal contenders.

“I am thrilled to qualify for my first Olympics. Four years back, I missed qualification by a few days, so this was always a target for me,” he says.

Down time
Music is important to Chopra. He finds it the perfect way to de-stress.

He says, “It lets me get into my zone and drown out the surroundings, so I can focus on the task. I like all sorts of music, but before a competition I prefer some fast beats and higher tempo music, like Imagine Dragons.”

When he is in India, Chopra enjoys automobiles. He has a Harley Davidson bike and a Toyota Fortuner. He also likes watches and wears them when he throws the javelin.

“I wear whatever I can get my hands on, usually an Apple Watch or a G-Shock, but the performance tracking aspect isn’t much of a consideration,” Chopra says. “I like wearing them because they look good. I also have a Tissot and used to have a Tag Heuer.”

Chopra’s idol is the Czech javelin thrower Jan Zelezny, who holds the world record in the sport (98.48 metres).

“I used to watch his videos growing up and a lot of my throwing style is modelled around his,” says Chopra. “I have been fortunate to meet him a few times and he’s told me that he follows my performances, which is a motivation for me.”

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