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Mumbai, July 3 – Finishing on top of a tough field that included top competitors on his return from an injury is a big boost to the confidence and Neeraj Chopra, India’s Olympic gold medalist in javelin throw, is hoping to build on that to excel in the upcoming World Championship at Budapest in August this year.
And to do that, Chopra is focusing on getting to his peak, physically and mentally, before the World Championship which will be held from August 19 to 27 at the National Athletics Centre, in Budapest, Hungary. Chopra has qualified by wild card for Budapest as the Diamond League winner.
“My focus for the next few weeks is on preparing for the World Championships in Budapest. At this moment my approach is to get my best physical condition for the World Championship. My physio has made an assessment and we all feel that I can now up the ante and go full throttle in my preparations for the World Championship,” Neeraj informed the media during an interaction organised by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Monday.
Chopra has some unfinished business at the World Championships as he wants to go one-up on the silver medal he won in the last edition in Eugene and add the gold medal to the ones he bagged at Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and the Commonwealth Games in 2018 in Gold Coast.
Neeraj had superbly started his season by topping the field in the opening Diamond League event in Doha on May 5 with his fourth career-best throw of 88.67m. But in doing so, he had suffered a muscle strain and was forced to pull out of the FBK Games on June 4 at Hengelo (the Netherlands) and Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland on June 13 as a precautionary measure.
On his comeback from a muscle strain that kept him out of competition for a month, Neeraj topped the field in the Lausanne Diamond League event on June 30 with a throw of 87.66, finishing ahead of Julian Weber with a throw of 87.03m in the final attempt while Jakub Vadlejch finished third with his best attempt of 86.13 in his sixth throw.
The 25-year-old Chopra clinched the top spot with a superb throw on his fifth attempt after deliberately fouling his first throw as he felt it might end up at the 75m-mark and not go beyond the 80-metre line.
He said he is satisfied with his performance in the two events he has participated in so far but is not happy.
“I am satisfied with my performance so far, not happy. But my performance in the major events over the years gives me the confidence that I can achieve the targets that I have set for myself for this season and my career. That is what gives me the confidence to produce my best throws in big events,” said Chopra.
He said what matters more for him is the fact that he has finished first against the best competitors in the world and not the distance he achieved.
“It is more important to come first while competing against the best in the world, whatever the distance. My target always is to top the field and come first.
“The conditions in both the events — Doha and Lausanne Diamond League — I have participated in this season were tough. In Doha, the wind was an issue and it was affecting the run-up to the throw. Conditions were also difficult at Lausanne as it was a bit cold for us coming from a warmer climate. So, winning against the world’s best in such conditions is a big confidence boost,” said the athlete from Sonipat in Haryana.
Though the World Championship is still 46 days away and it is always good to reach the venue with at least one competition under his belt, Chopra has not yet decided on his participation in the upcoming Diamond League event in Monaco on July 21.
“Not decided on my participation in Monaco Diamond League. We still have a couple of weeks for that and we will take a call later this week. I believe if I continue to prepare well till the World Championships, I will be at my best physically to participate in Budapest,” Chopra said.
The Indian athletics legend, the first from the country to win a gold medal in the Olympics, said his focus in the remaining part of the season will be on remaining injury free and in the best physical and mental shape.
“Yes, the focus is to remain fit and give my best in the top competitions. I have to remain injury free and work on my fitness. I need to be in my best physical shape for the World Championship. I have to work a lot on fully recovering from the injury and becoming fully fit,” said Chopra speaking from his base in Kuortane, Finland where he is training in the run-up to the World Championship.
Because of the injury, Chopra has gained a couple of kilos and is therefore aware that he has to not only shed the extra pounds in the runup for Budapest but also work on his physical fitness and his technique before the World Championship.
He and his team have noticed a few minor issues with his technique and they will try to rectify them in the next few days.