We desperately need international competitions: Neeraj Chopra
Champion javelin thrower admits the hurdles to his Olympic dream keep nagging at the back of his mind
He broke onto the world stage with a record throw at the World junior athletics championships in 2016, his 86.48m good enough for an Olympic medal at Rio that year. Unfortunately, it came 12 days after the qualifying cut-off.
Five years on, Neeraj Chopra remains India’s most consistent world-level athlete and a genuine medal prospect at Tokyo Olympics but the uncertainty around it has been frustrating for the youngster who admits the hurdles to his Olympic dream keep nagging at the back of his mind.
“In 2016, I was doing well and even a metre less than what I did at Poland and it stays at the back of your mind but you cannot do anything about it. Now again my training has been really good and I am getting into a good rhythm but there is uncertainty. It is always frustrating to think that four years of effort will be in vain if something happens,” Neeraj said in an interaction on Wednesday.
“2019 was lost because of injury, then from 2020 onwards because of COVID. I do feel that some of the best 2-3 years of my career have been lost for reasons beyond my control and you keep thinking what are we training for if there is no firm target in sight. How long can we keep thinking about staying positive? Everyone trains to show their efforts in competition, to test themselves against the best. Without that, training becomes meaningless,” he added.
The 23-year old admitted that competitions were his biggest need at the moment. “We desperately need competitions. Even the best training cannot compare to proper international competition. I am lucky to qualify but many others haven’t.
“Also, I have not participated in a full-fledged international competition for more than two years and I have to get that experience to be comfortable and prepared for the Olympics. Even the best cannot go directly from training and perform,” he insisted.
Prefer to train in Sweden or Finland
While the AFI, SAI and the ministry are constantly trying to work out alternative foreign locations for training and competition amidst travel restrictions from India — Neeraj said he preferred Sweden or Finland — the athletes are trying to stay focussed despite the growing cases in the country. The increasingly hot weather at Patiala is not helping, though.
“I do believe that there should be an all-purpose indoor track to train at least in Patiala which is the base for most of our elite athletes. Even the smallest of countries abroad have one. Already the temperature is touching 40 degrees and it will get worse. An indoor track will help us train all year round,” he said.
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