Post Doha show, upbeat Neeraj looking forward to season

Fresh after top throw in tricky conditions against big rivals in Doha Diamond League, javelin ace eager to improve further ahead of more challenges this year

CHENNAI:  With Doha over, Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra is getting ready for bigger challenges. The season is still nascent and the first events are always tricky. If the conditions are not favourable, things can get complicated. Neeraj, who had a successful last season winning the coveted Diamond League trophy, has begun the season well, triumphing in Doha.

A day before the competition, his coach Klaus Bartonietz had said that it was windy and the javelin throwers would be running into the wind. “Headwind is not ideal for javelin throwers where the sprint is involved,” he had said.

On Friday, the night of the first Diamond League of the season, the throwers were running into the wind. The challenge was unique and even Neeraj felt so. Despite having a good throw, he felt the javelin was “not flying properly” because of the wind.

"Training was very good and considering the conditions we had (on Friday), my performance, world-leading, was quite good," Neeraj told this daily. "Now the focus will be on the next competitions where I will concentrate on improving technique and throw. I would like to do better than this."

"(On Friday) the conditions were difficult not just for me but for all throwers," he said. "There was a headwind and the javelin was not flying properly because of the wind. Everyone was trying but it was not easy out there. Overall the competition was very good."

Even his coach Bartonietz felt the season has started well and Diamond League is for ranking points to make the final. The first competition is to see what the athlete has achieved so far. Neeraj’s 88.67m in Doha is a good beginning and they need to build on it.

All the top javelin throwers of the world assembled at Doha. World champion Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic, who won silver at the Tokyo Olympics, finished second with a throw of 88.63m while Anderson Peters of Grenada finished third. Both have breached the 90-m mark and there were two others who had managed the distance. The field will be more or less the same in all top competitions including the 2024 Paris Olympics and the World Championships in August this year. Going ahead, such wins usually give confidence to the athletes and an edge in bigger competitions like the Olympics.

Neeraj, however, felt challenges in different competitions are different and nothing concrete can be concluded from this win against top throwers. “We enter and compete against each other in almost all competitions,” he said. “In Diamond League, all the best throwers come. It feels good to win against such competitors. But we can’t really conclude anything from such competitions.”

“The Olympics are a different ball game altogether. When we are at the Olympics, the pressure is different. Even the format is different. We have to qualify. When we are at the Olympics, we represent the country so the pressure is different. But yes, experience wise it always is positive if we compete and win against them. The pressure is less if we keep competing against them.”

Neeraj and his team will be training in Antalya until May 30 when he and his team – Bartonietz and physio Ishaan Marwah – leave for Germany. They will be based out of the same centre where he went for rehabilitation after Worlds last year at Saarbruecken, a centre two hours away from Paris. The European competitions he would enter have not been decided but are expected to be similar to last year and will be looking to peak at the world.

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