“In athletics, it’s very simple. If you are throwing, it should be the farthest; if you are jumping, it should be the highest; and if you are running, it should be the fastest” is how Neeraj put it during this interaction.
There can’t be a simpler way than that to put things into perspective. Neeraj, in fact, is a master of that — keeping things simple.
In a couple of days’ time, Neeraj will be at the second biggest stage after his Olympic triumph — the ongoing World Championships in Oregon, USA, where he will run in to throw the spear to a distance that could potentially fetch India only its second World Championships medal.
Former long-jumper Anju Bobby George’s 2003 bronze is still the only World Championships medal won by an Indian. Neeraj’s current form and decorated run-up to the competition promises to add to that tally.
(Neeraj Chopra and Anju Bobby George – TOI Photo)
At the Stockholm Diamond League, he set up a perfect launchpad for the World Championships — with a new national-record throw of 89.94m, just six centimeters shy of a mark he has often been quizzed about — the holy grail of international javelin throw, 90m. Neeraj finished second, while Grenada’s Anderson Peters ended up as the leader of the field in Stockholm with a throw of 90.31m.
The repeated queries around hitting 90m has perhaps forced Neeraj to stop thinking about distance. But he insists that’s how his mind works — just go all out and let the distance take care of itself.
“I have always said, I am not focusing on the distance. I just give my 100% in every competition,” said Neeraj, during a media interaction organised by international sports apparel and accessories brand ‘Under Armour’, which TimesofIndia.com was part of.
“The mindset here (World Championships) is the same. I have to put my entire energy into my throws on that day.”
The men’s javelin throw qualifications will be held on July 22 and the finals on July 24 (both dates per IST). And the competition in the current field is going to be “cut throat”, according to Neeraj.
But the ace Indian ‘spearman’ displayed unequivocally in Tokyo last year that he is now competition for others rather than it being the other way round, which has been the case traditionally for India’s track and field athletes on the international stage.
So it’s only natural for Indian fans to expect a repeat of his Olympic feat, this time in Oregon.
“If I talk about the (Tokyo) Olympics, there were world class throwers. Some were a lot better than me. But I could win gold that day. Sometimes it happens that an athlete’s body is not in the best shape and so he can’t perform the way he usually does. But some are able to pull themselves through even in those conditions,” said Neeraj, possibly pointing at gold medal favourite Johannes Vetter not being able to qualify for the Olympics final.
Talking about the field in Oregon, Neeraj’s 89.94m currently sits third on the season-best list, behind Peters’s 93.07m and Jakub Vadlejch‘s 90.88m. Germany’s Julian Weber has touched 89.54m to be among the title contenders.
Rohit Yadav, with a season best of 82.54m, is the other Indian in the fray.
“I can’t name anyone in particular, but there are 5-6 (athletes) who are throwing well (good distances) consistently,” said Neeraj during the interaction. “It’s 89-plus metres (for gold) in most competitions held so far this season. So I think this time it’s very competitive for the world title.
“It is my biggest competition of the year….cut-throat competition this time, if you see. All top javelin athletes are producing their personal best. Two athletes (Peters and Vadlejch) have even crossed 90m this season, and there are many who are throwing between 89m and 90m. I think it’s going to be a brilliant world championship battle (for men’s javelin gold),” he added, replying to a question asked by TimesofIndia.com.
“I always believe every competition, every day is different. It (performance) depends on the day what the result will be. But I am looking forward to it.”
The 24-year-old has already become a household name in India. Not an easy thing to do for a non-cricket athlete, but then an individual Olympic gold medal will do that, just like it did for Abhinav Bindra. A World Championships medal, potentially a gold, will further add to the legend of Neeraj Chopra.