Just weeks after his historic Commonwealth Gold, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra came up with a massive 87.43m throw at the season-opening Doha Diamond league to rewrite his own national record and finish fourth in the 10-man competition. The throw would have earned him a medal in the last five Olympics, barring Sydney. At the London and Athens event, the 87m-plus effort would have been enough for him to get the gold medal.
Meanwhile, the Germans ruled the event taking the top three spots. It is the first time in history that three athletes recorded 90m plus throws in at any competition. Thomas Rohler took the top spot with a 91.78m throw with compatriots Johannes Vetter (91.56m) and Hofmann Andreas (90.08m) finished second and third respectively. The next leg of the elite event will take place in Shanghai, China on May 12.
Neeraj first entered the records book in 2016 with the a world record throw of 86.48 m at the World U20 Championships in Poland. Since then he has been steadily progressing with consistent performances.
This season, by his own admission, has been the best of Neeraj’s career. Returning from a six-month training stint under German coach Werner Daniels, he recorded an impressive 85.94m at the qualifying event for Gold Coast in March. At the CWG he fell just a cm short of his Poland distance, but still bagged the gold. On the eve of the Doha competition he told The Indian Express that he was relaxed and the tag of being the Commonwealth champion motivated him to perform better.
“I know that now each time I compete people will have high hopes from me and that actually boosts me. To say that there is more pressure on me would not be fair. Jitne log ho, utna heen achha,” he had said.
With his dazzling performances this year, he has made amends for a lacklustre 2017 which included the World Championships where he failed to make it to the finals. He had also suffered a groin injury that forced him to pull out midway at the Zurich Diamond League.
“My target is the Asian Games. Although at the Diamond League the competition is as tough as the Olympics but for the people of our country the Asiad is bigger. I actually don’t take much pressure during the Diamond league but the exposure gained here is vital. Here, the idea is to go out and come up with your best throw. It gives you an idea where you stand at the world-level,” said Chopra just a day before his Doha effort.
Neeraj is expected to join the national camp under German Legend Uwe Hohn which begins in Finland later this month. After spending a good part of the last season without a coach, Hohn was roped in to train the campers but Neeraj chose to continue training in Germany under Daniels. He returned just a month before the CWG qualifiers.
“As of now, I am going to train under Hohn. He has told me that there are certain areas that he will be working on so I am able to breach the 90m mark,” Chopra said.