As injury heals, Neeraj Chopra gears up to make comeback by year end

Nitin Sharma
Neeraj Chopra in Chandigarh on Saturday. (Express Photo: Kamleshwar Singh)

Earlier this month, Asian Games and CWG champion javelin thrower 21-year-old Neeraj Chopra resumed training at the NIS, Patiala and India s leading javelin thrower believes that he will aim for a strong comeback once he is completely fit.

It has been more than four months since Chopra underwent a surgery on his right elbow to remove bone fragments. The Haryana athlete, who had become the World U-20 Champion in Poland in 2016, was suffering with soreness in his elbow since November 2018 and the injury meant that Chopra withdrew from the Asian Championships early this year, apart from this month s world Championship in Doha, Qatar.

My elbow can properly move. My focus has been on light movement, apart from light throws. I am careful as I should not jerk my elbow now. I want to be completely fit before I venture out entirely. As I suffered injury during the South Africa tour, where we were training, I was disappointed as it meant that the hard work of the last six months was spoiled. I could not compete at the Asian Championship and missed the Diamond League and the World Championship as well. I had thought that this year will be very important for me but I have not played any competition till now. But then, such things also make you learn something. My focus was on increasing my fitness at IIS, Vijaynagar, before joining the NIS. I also watched videos of my competitors and my training to motivate myself, said Chopra, a native of Khandra village near Panipat.

Chopra, who had become the world U-20 champion with a throw of 86.48 metres in the IAAF World U-20 Championship at Poland in 2016, had become the Commonwealth Games champion in 2018, before winning gold medal at Asian Games, with a personal best throw of 88.06 metres last year. Chopra was a part of the elite athletes camp in South Africa in March this year, before he had to withdraw from the Asian Championship due to the elbow injury.

Last year, Chopra s personal best throw of 88.06 metres was the sixth best in the world in 2018, with Johannes Vetter and Andreas Hofmann earning the top and the second spot, respectively, with best throws of 92.70 metres and 92.06 metres. Another German, Thomas Rohler, recorded a best throw of 91.78 metres in 2018. However, this year has seen only two throwers record throws of more than 90 metres, including Estonia s Magnus Kirt with 90.61 metres and Vetter with 90.33 metres. Meanwhile, the qualification for the 2020 Olympics begun on May 1, and the period for achieving the qualification mark of 85 metres is extended till June 29, 2020.

There is no pressure as such about the other competitors. This year has seen most of the throwers below the 88 metres mark, while in the last two years, the competition was strong with about four throwers crossing the 90 metres mark regularly. Even Thomas Rohler s best throw this year has been 86.99 metres. But then there is still a lot of time to 2020 Olympics. My mindset is to focus on my training once I am completely fit and to improve my technique and rectify mistakes, which are occurring. I had set a target of working to cross the 90 metres mark this year mark but now it is one of the goals for the coming year. Coach Uwe Hohn will soon join the training in Patiala. I am training under assistant coach Dr Klaus Bartonietz right now. Hopefully, I will start competing by the end of this year or by the start of the next year, said Chopra.

With the emergence of the other javelin throwers like Asian Championship silver medallist Shivpal Singh, who made a throw of 86.23 metres at the Asian Championship in Doha this year, and juniors like Rohit Yadav and Sahil Silwal, Chopra is happy about the competition. When I started, crossing the 80 metres mark used to be a big thing.

At times, gold would come at 72 metres mark in India, while the world standard was 85-90 metres. I am glad that I could be among the world s top six and now India has other throwers like Shivpal, who have crossed the 85 metres mark. Juniors like Rohit and Sahil are also talented and they are capable of winning medals at next year s World Junior Championship, said Chopra.