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Javelin star Neeraj Chopra sets sights on touching 90m before Tokyo Olympics - Exclusive

Neeraj Chopra with actress, presenter Mandira Bedi

New Delhi, Sep 11: India's golden boy Neeraj Chopra was the talk of the town for his historic gold medal-winning effort at Asian Games 2018 held in Jakarta and Palembang to end India's draught in the javelin throw.

No Indian athlete made a podium finish at the Asiad since Gurtej Singh's bronze medal in 1982 games, held in New Delhi. 20-year-old Neeraj has therefore raised the country's hopes of a possible Olympic medal in the near future.

The Panipat boy broke the national record at Jakarta with his best throw of 88.06 metre at the Asian Games, which earned him the yellow metal. Neeraj was India's flag-bearer in the opening ceremony of the Asiad and lived up to the expectations of putting his best foot forward.

The previous national record was 87.43M which was also set by the 20-year-old at the IAAF Diamond League Meeting in Doha in May.

Talking to myKhel on the sidelines of an event in New Delhi, the star track and field athlete said it feels great after getting appreciation from the fellow countrymen following his top show in the Asiad.

"Definitely, it feels good to win a gold medal for the country. I am overwhelmed with all the applause and appreciation I am receiving from all corners and that will motivate me further to practice hard and do well in the future."

Neeraj, however, couldn't repeat the same intensity in the two events soon after the golden run at Asiad. In the Diamond League finals in Zurich, he missed the medal by a whisker by finishing fourth. While in the IAAF Continental Cup, which saw the participation of some of the best in the world, including reigning Olympic champion Thomas Rohler, the Indian finished sixth. He regretted the fact that his throws are constantly getting sector out which isn't acceptable and he immediately needs to work on that.

"I have been constantly making mistakes as my throws have been going outside the track. This has badly hurt me during the Diamond League, which cost me a medal. I repeated similar mistakes at the IAAF Continental Cup, where I finished a distant sixth. Certainly, there is something that needs to be done, I might have to even work on my technique so that the javelin remains in the specified zone.

"The Asiad, Diamond League, and IAAF Continental Cup happened within a short span of time so I couldn't focus on improving them. Now I'll work in this area an make the necessary adjustments ahead of the World Championships, scheduled next year."

Neeraj Chopra (centre) after winning Gold medal at 2018 Asian Games

When asked what he's going to do about breaching the 90M metre barrier, for that is the only way he can assure himself of a podium finish in the Olympics. The Panipat-lad said, "If you look at my performance between 2016 and 2018, I have made an improvement of 2-metres in these two years. It might seem less but it's not. I have come a long way and now I am touching 88M constantly. Had I not erred in Jakarta, I could have thrown at a distance of 90M there itself. Hence, I need to make some 'minor technical adjustments' and 90M is within my reach, it can come anytime. Overall, it has been a satisfying season for me."

In the 2016 IAAF World Under-20 Championships, Neeraj set the world junior record by throwing 86.48M and has never looked back ever since.

Neeraj also said that he's been closely observing the way the likes of Rohler and other top javelin throwers practice and also highlighted the fact that there is a big rift between the facilities the Germans get for training.

"I have been watching Roehler for quite some time now and try to observe how he trains. But I would like to tell that India is also emerging as a force to reckon with in javelin throw. We are now ranked third in team events as some good throwers are coming up and hopefully, things will improve further in coming days. German athletes are using highly advanced types of equipment in training and that, perhaps, is a reason behind Germany being called a powerhouse."

When asked if he's going to change his German coach Uwe Hohn or continue with him, Neeraj said, "I am going to stick to him only for the time being. I am going to train at Patiala (SAI centre) for some days and later coach will decide where and how to train and prepare for World Championships."

Gatorade, the world's no 1 sports drink, welcomed Neeraj, its brand ambassador, back after winning the historic gold medal in Indonesia.

Speaking on his association with Gatorade, Neeraj said, "This entire season has been fantastic for me in terms of performance. My coaches, trainers and support systems including Gatorade have enabled me to consistently deliver and win senior international championships. Hydration plays a crucial role in any athlete's performance, and since coming on board with Gatorade, I have come to better understand my hydration requirements and the need to constantly refuel not just with water but a perfect balance of carbohydrates, electrolyte, other nutrients and fluids that are lost with excessive sweating."

Neeraj sees huge potential in the javelin throw in the country and appealed the government to provide more infrastructure for this track and field event for that is the only way forward.

"I would like to urge the government to make proper grounds where the javelin throwers can practice and hone their skills. There is no dearth of such talents in our country, we simply need to provide a proper infrastructre so that the athletes get proper exposure," he signed off.

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    Story first published: Wednesday, September 12, 2018, 0:15 [IST]
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