World renowned javelin thrower Uwe Hohn is no longer coaching the country’s brightest athlete Neeraj Chopra as he attempts to qualify for the Olympics. Chopra, 21, is currently training at Potchefstroom in South Africa with bio-mechanics expert Klaus Bartonietz and this arrangement is to continue till the Tokyo Games in July.
The Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medalist has opted to train with Bartonietz after spending a lot of time with him during his rehabilitation phase following an elbow surgery in May. Meanwhile, Hohn will now be focussing on Shivpal Singh and Annu Rani, both silver medallists at the Asian Championships at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala. Bartonietz was hired in May to coach the growing pool of national campers and ease the burden on Hohn who was to focus his attention on Chopra.
For Hohn, the only man to throw the javelin over 100 metres, the incentive to take up the India job was the opportunity to coach Chopra, touted as a potential medal winner at the Olympics since he became the world junior champion in 2016.
Hohn was coaching Chopra when he set the national record of 88.06 metres en route to winning the Asiad gold and the CWG title. The German coach has been confident of Chopra breaking the 90-metre mark but now the task of guiding India’s most promising athlete will be Bartonietz’s responsibility.
The decision to swap coaches was taken by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) after taking feedback from Chopra. An athletics federation official said the coach change was not done to undermine the contribution of Hohn but to ensure that Chopra was at ease as he tried to qualify for the Olympics.
“Keeping the preference of the athlete in mind, we decided to allow him to train with Bartonietz. Chopra respects Hohn because it was while training with him that he won the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games gold and set the national record. However, he wanted a change when it came to the training method. Chopra felt that he may not be able to handle the volume of the workload Hohn would have wanted him to do. He has trained with Hohn for two years and there is nothing wrong in wanting to train with Bartonietz. There is nothing personal in him wanting to change the coach,” the AFI official told The Indian Express.
It is also learnt that Chopra had suggested the name of another foreign coach but the AFI shot down the proposal as they felt he was not qualified enough. Chopra is yet to qualify for the Olympics and has not competed this season owing to the injury. He was keen to participate in the World Champions which were held in Doha in September, but the AFI advised him against it as they felt he could risk further injury by rushing back to competition too fast.
Apart from Chopra, Bartonietz will also coach Rohit Yadav, the under-18 national record holder, who caught the eye of the coaches at National Javelin Throw Open Championships in April.
The two throwers, the coach and a physio will be based in Potchefstroom till March. Chopra is likely to compete from early next year in his bid to make the cut for the Olympic Games.
51 fail age verification tests
Age fraud continues to be a menace as 51 athletes were disqualified after they failed verification tests at the 17th Milo National Inter-district Junior Athletics Championships held in Tirupati from November 23 to 25. Age verification tests were conducted in the run-up to the competition as AFI has launched a drive to weed out over-age participants at the age group competitions. In order to ensure proper documentation of athletes, the AFI also issued biometric cards to all the participants. The inter-district competition saw the participation of over 4500 boys and girls in two age-groups (under-16 and under-14) from 500-plus districts. This is not the first time this year that disqualification has taken place because of age fraud. At the 16th National Youth Athletics Championships in Raipur, 41 athletes were disqualified for fudging their age in February this