NEW DELHI: India’s star javelin thrower and a leading medal prospect at the Tokyo Games, Neeraj Chopra, has revealed that he’s been concentrating on improving his technique and footwork at the national camp in Odisha rather than focusing solely on covering distance as part of his Olympic preparations, even as the reigning CWG and Asiad gold medallist has set his eyes on breaching the coveted 90m-mark by the end of this year.
Neeraj, in an exclusive interview with TOI on Saturday, informed about his tentative plans to travel to Finland, Germany or, may be, Antalya in Turkey in Summers to prepare for the Olympics.
The 23-year-old athlete, who’s presently training at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, informed that he would look to return to the competition mode with the Indian Grand Prix in February and Federation Cup in March. Excerpts from the interview….
You talked about breaching the 90m-mark as part of your New Year resolution. How do you aim to achieve that?
Neeraj: Well, the 90m-mark has become a new barrier these days. First, it used to be 70m, then it became 80m, and now everyone is targeting 90m. Those who have achieved this mark are counted among the top throwers. I have been working hard on it and believe that I will cross the mark this year. However, during competitions, my focus remains only on giving 100 percent, and not on the distance. I reckon that if I remained consistent during competitions, the 90m-mark won’t be difficult to achieve.
How far have you been throwing your javelin these days? Tell us about your progress since joining the camp in Odisha?
Neeraj: I have been working on my technique lately, not on the distance. I have been covering 72-75m. There’s still some time left to get into the competitive frame of mind. I think I need competitions to assess my training and fitness level for Tokyo. It’s really important to have international competitions before the Olympics as it will help you prepare and get into that competitive frame of mind.
Tell us about your training regime these days?
Neeraj: I am working on my strength and technical aspect. Last year, you must have seen in the Continental Cup and Diamond League, my releases were inclined towards the left side, and in one of the events, I made an error. So, I am working on my release and direction lately. I am also working on minor things such as blocking leg, which I feel is a little loose. So, I’ve been trying to improve on that as well. I would say the training has been going great these days.
What will be your competition plan for the next six-seven months leading up to the Olympics? Where do you plan to train in foreign locations?
Neeraj: We haven’t prepared the list of any competitions yet, in which we will take part in. If we are starting the season with the Federation Cup, we will get to know about it better. A call on the conduct of the Olympics will be taken in February-March. Keeping that in mind, we will plan our competitions. However, we are currently focusing on major events of high-standards only.
As far as training was concerned, we will stay put in India. We had planned for South Africa but due to the new Covid strain, it got called off. So, in Summers, we will try to go to any European country, be it Finland or Germany or any other centre where we can train properly. It could be Turkey just like we went last year to Antalya.
Tell us about your competition itinerary leading up to Tokyo…
Neeraj: As of now, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has scheduled the Indian Grand Prix in February and Federation Cup in the second week of March. Initially, we felt that we will begin our season a little late this year….due to Covid we can’t go anywhere outside India to train. If we feel prepared for the Federation Cup, we might take part in it and make changes to our training plans accordingly. Then Diamond League will happen in May, so mostly we are focusing on that.