Neeraj Chopra’s personal best could have won him an Olympic gold in 2012

first_imgNeeraj Chopra’s 88.06 metre javelin throw in Jakarta won him India’s first Asian Games gold in the event, and would have been good enough to earn him a bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the javelin, Chropa knows.Germany’s Thomas Rohler won Rio gold with a toss of 90.3 metres. But just 85.38 metres was good enough to earn Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad & Tobago a bronze. And Walcott won gold in London in 2012 with a throw of 84.58 metres.So is Chopra bound for a medal come Tokyo 2020? Not necessarily. As Chopra found out at the Diamond League Final less than a week after the Asian Games, sometimes the javelin will only go as far as 85.73 metres. And you don’t get on the podium at all.Well, found out is the wrong expression; Chopra knows this. It’s the life of a thrower. Or any athlete, really. You can do your best. So might another person. For every Milkha Singh, there will be an Otis Davis, a Carl Kaufmann and a Malcolm Spence – four people can run record times; only three make it to the podium.But, as the 20-year-old from Khandra village in Haryana says, you could well be that person on your day.”My throw was 88.06 metres – it was a good throw even at the world level. But you can’t compare it with the Olympics. In Rio, with that throw, I could have won a bronze. The last time in London, I could have won gold. But it changes from day to day,” he explains. He has a thoughtful head on those very young shoulders.advertisement Then he adds, in charming Haryanvi Hindi, “But at 88 metres, I should be in the medal range in 2020.” A fact that medal-starved Indian sports fans should made a note of.Read – Passion is very important, says Neeraj Chopra after Asian Games 2018 goldChopra’s rise is fascinating, not least because he has charted a course rarely attempted in India – throwing the javelin. It is an expensive, specialised sport that we haven’t traditionally excelled in. Yet, here is Chopra, excelling and how – gold medals at the South Asian Games (2016), the World Under-20 Championships (2016), the Asian Athletics Championships (2017), the Commonwealth Games (2018) and now the Asian Games.The medals come with talent, of course, and support – as Chopra has from JSW Sport, and coach Uwe Hohn, the former German thrower with the ‘eternal world record’ of 104.80 metres. (Rule changes and tweaks to the design of the javelin have meant only the rare throw crosses 90 metres now; 100-plus seems like an impossible dream.)Also Read – When Neeraj Chopa is on the field, expect the very best from him: PM ModiBut keeping the javelin in the 88-90-metre region isn’t impossible, Chopra says. “Technique, and the line, those are the important things, that’s what I speak to my coach about,” he elaborates. “Training, continuous training, and a sensible diet I have to be consistent. If any little thing is loose, if I have a weakness, then it all goes wrong. A little mistake can reduce my distance by 10 metres.”The line – it’s crucial, and complex. The straighter the throw, the better. But wind speed and direction have to be kept in mind. And the release has to be perfect. It wasn’t at the Diamond League Final, when Chopra got more height than distance – that’s how big-hitters get caught at the boundary line. “I could have gone 90 metres at the Asian Games,” he says. Why didn’t he then? “I aimed slightly inside the straight line, but it didn’t go dead straight,” he says. Not an excuse, just a statement of fact. At the Diamond League Final, it went even more awry – “I am trying, let’s see when it happens. Not worrying about it too much, it will happen if I am capable of doing it.”To improve, get to 88-odd metres consistently, the only answer is practice. And competition. Keep at it. Keep doing it. But “too much competition can break the body, so it’s important to be sensible” about balancing everything – rest, training and competition.”I am crossing 85 often, so that’s good. There are strong competitors. Others will also try to do well, so things will go wrong sometimes. It doesn’t matter. It’s good to be competing with them,” says ChopraWith disarming humility and a laugh. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had famously said, ‘you can’t win unless you learn how to lose’, a truism Chopra appears to have internalised. Can he be the best in the world? On his day, yes. Whether that will be on the one day that zillions of Indians discover their hitherto-unrevealed javelin-throw fanatic – the Olympic Games two years on – remains to be seen.advertisementlast_img

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