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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Switching from ‘favourite’ javelin to a new model helped Neeraj Chopra break national record

In heavy crosswinds, star athlete switched to a latest version of Nordic Sport to overcome difficult conditions and throw 88.07 metres.

Written by Nihal Koshie | New Delhi |
Updated: March 6, 2021 8:23:09 am
Neeraj Chopra has broken his own national record. (AFI)

A switch to a new javelin from his ‘old favourite’ helped Neeraj Chopra set a new national mark in the men’s javelin throw on return to competition after a year. In his fifth attempt Chopra, in a fluorescent green top and sporting a long mane, improved the national mark by a centimetre to 88.07 metres, a timely show of form with the Tokyo Olympics just months away.

Chopra, like most javelin throwers, has a sense of how far he has thrown even before the javelin lands. On Friday, Chopra didn’t show any emotion immediately after the spear left his hand.

Owing to technical difficulties (four cameras), the flight of the javelin was not telecast to viewers during the live streaming of the men’s event on the Athletics Federation of India’s YouTube channel.

The confirmation of a new national record came a minute later on the electronic display board, before an official announcement.

The distance achieved with Nordic Sport javelin, despite strong winds (from the left) at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, perhaps surprised Chopra too.

“There was a strong wind today. Earlier (rounds) I threw with a javelin which is my favourite. That gains a good height. But now Nordic Sport has brought out a new javelin. It helps when you throw in windy conditions if you release it well. I decided to throw with the new javelin (Nordic) in the fifth throw. I didn’t even feel like I had thrown with so much power but it was a very good throw. With experience I am sure I can throw better,” Chopra said after the event.

Indian javelin throwers, especially Chopra and Shivpal Singh — both have qualified for the Olympics — have been experimenting with the latest version of the Nordic Sport carbon javelins. Chopra has been using the Nemeth make, but seems to have slowly taken a liking for the Nordic Sport model, which is unforgiving to less-than-perfect techniques.

It’s advantage: vibration free flight path in headwinds and greater distance if the throwing technique and release is good.

Foreign coach Uwe Hohn, the only thrower to cross 100 metres, is a strong believer that athletes must adapt during a competition. He listed out the reasons why throwers can benefit when using the right javelin according to conditions.

“Javelins are made for different capabilities of athletes and wind conditions. Javelins are also built differently (shape, material) and therefore are also different in stiffness. Some are better for headwind like Nordic and others are good with tailwind like Nemeth. Choosing the right javelin will help athletes improve,” Hohn said.

It is not that Indian throwers haven’t used Nordic javelins before, but the latest models were imported recently and throwers have been using them in training. The feedback has been positive but coaches have left it to the athletes to think on their feet, depending on conditions, and use the appropriate one.

“The modern Nordic, for example, Valhalla (version Chopra used) are carbon javelins and very stiff but have less vibration for example. Nemeth is softer. The Valhalla from Nordic is relatively new, but Nemeth’s models have been in the market for quite long without any changes,” Hohn said.

The coach said that if Chopra uses the right javelin, he will be able to throw 92 metres. “The national record by Neeraj would probably be 92 metres if he is able to let the javelin fly properly,” Hohn said. The coach felt Chopra’s throw was ‘much better, especially in difficult conditions.’

Though Chopra improved on the national mark by a centimetre, it was a significant throw because he and Shivpal (81.63 on Friday) have not competed since qualifying for the Olympics during competition in Potchefstroom, South Africa, in January 2020.

“I have not competed for a long time. Also in 2019 I was injured and out for 15 months. When I returned, I competed in South Africa and threw 87.86 metres to qualify for the Olympics. Because of the Coronavirus, I could not compete for a long time. So I am happy with the new record. I hope to compete in more competitions and do well at the Olympics,” Chopra said.

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