Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra Tuesday said he would aim to consistently hit the Asian Games gold-winning distance of 88m next season before looking to cross the magical 90m mark in 2020 ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Chopra, who sent the spear to a distance of 88.06m to claim the gold in the Asian Games last month, said a “small” adjustment in his technique — which he would work out before next season — should enable him to cross the 90m mark.
“It has been a very satisfying season, I have been consistent at 85-plus throughout and I touched 88m in Jakarta. I am now confident that crossing 90m is within my grasp, it can come anytime. But before doing that I will have to throw at around 88m consistently,” Chopra told PTI in an interaction here.
“I would be looking to be consistent at around 88m next year and then go for the 90m before 2020 Olympics. But you never know even in the biggest of events (like the World Championships and Olympics), you can win a medal at this distance (of 88m),” said the 20-year-old Haryana athlete at the sidelines of an event organised by global sports drinks company, Gatorade.
In 2016, Chopra became the first Indian junior world champion athlete with a throw of 86.48m but had an ordinary season last year. But this season, he emerged as a truly world-class javelin thrower, winning gold in the Commonwealth and Asian Games and finishing fourth in the prestigious Diamond League Final.
He is the only javelin thrower among the current top stars in the world to have crossed 85m while below 20 years of age. Among the active javelin throwers, six have crossed the 90m mark, including three Germans who have been consistent at around that magic mark.
Chopra is aware of the tough competition at the global level but said a readjustment in his technique should put him among the select few of 90m throwers. “I have to do a small change in my technique, that has been identified along with my coach (former world record holder Uwe Hohn). This will be done before the new season next year and I hope to improve my distance,” he said.
“It is about the angle of release. The spear is going sideways and more towards left. I have to bring it towards the centre for a perfect angle of release so that the spear goes farther.”
The youngster said that the sixth-place finish at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava in Czech Republic on September 9 was a blessing in disguise as it showed he needed the adjustment in his technique.
He had a third round throw of over 85m but the spear went out of the sector, leaving Chopra out of medal contention. “It (the spear) was over 85m but went slightly out of the sector. That shows that there is some deficiency in my technique and the angle of release. So, I have to work on these things so that I can throw farther,” he added.
A few weeks before the Asian Games, Chopra’s former coach Gary Calvert, who had guided him to become a junior world champion, died in China. “I became a junior world champion under him and I learnt a lot from him. He told me he would be with me at the Asian Games (as national coach of China) but that did not happen.”
Chopra said standing at the podium at the Asian Games flanked by a Chinese and Pakistani did not strike him immediately. “It did not strike me at that moment but it was talked about later. But every athletes wants to do his best for his country and play with sportsmanship spirit. That is the same for me,” he said.
Asked about his journey from a village near Panipat to being a nation’s Olympic medal hope, he said, “I started in 2011 in the district level and broke the U-16 national record in 2013. I went up step by step and I was called for the national camp. I had never thought at that time that I will go this far.”