The 90m mark is mentioned every time Neeraj Chopra picks up the javelin that has pierced through many a records but the Indian star says he wants to steer clear of the pressure of getting there and first achieve consistency in hitting 87-88m this year.
A record-breaking year behind him, star Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra aims to break new grounds in this "crucial" season leading up to the Olympic Games next year.
"Last year, it was 85-86m I was consistent at and this year I want to be consistent at around 87-88m and if possible 90m. I will be happy if I do that. Consistency is the key," Neeraj told PTI in an interview from Potcheftsroom, South Africa where he's currently training.
"But I don't put any pressure on myself that I will have to cross 90m. Every time I go to a competition, I just think of doing my best."
After announcing his arrival in 2016 with a junior world record, the 21-year-old had a phenomenal season last year, winning a gold each in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
He emerged as a serious Olympic medal contender with a series of impressive throws, breaking his own national record twice last year. The last one of 88.06m won him a gold in the Asian Games and catapulted him to the world's elite.
The dashing six-footer from Khandra Village in Panipat is currently training at the North West University campus in Potcheftsroom. He has been there since 12 January and will train till the end of this month.
He is set to be exempted from the 15-18 March Federation Cup National Championship in Patiala, which will serve as the selection trial for the Asian Championships in Doha (19-24 April).
"It was a very satisfying last season, I won gold in two major multi-sporting events and then improved my national record. This year is very crucial, there is the Asian Championships and the World Championships (September 28 to October 6), not to forget the Diamond League series events," Neeraj said.
"“Obviously, I want to do better this year than last year. A better performance this season will boost my confidence going into the Olympic year (next year). I could not do well in the World Championships in 2017 and this time I would like to make amends of that poor show.”" - Neeraj Chopra
Neeraj had failed to qualify for the final round in the 2017 London World Championships. He could not clear the automatic qualification mark of 83m with 82.26m being the best in the three throws in the preliminary round.
Since the season has just started, the emphasis is on fitness and building the body than actual technique.
"It is more about building and strengthening the body, core training. We have not started throwing the javelin, we will do that later this month. There are also some competitions lined-up in South Africa and nearby places towards the end of this month," he said.
The only throwing he has done in Potcheftsroom is with lightweight iron balls which are heavier than a javelin.
"...medicine balls and iron balls weigh 1 or 2 kg and strengthen my shoulder. I am throwing these iron balls to short distances like I throw a javelin. The technical adjustments (which his coach Uwe Hohn has hinted) will be done later as we go along in the year."
The likes of world number 3 Magnus Kirt of Estonia (personal best 89.75m) and World Championships silver-medallist Jakub Vadlejch of Czech Republic (personal best 89.73m) are currently training at the same facility.
"It is a world class facility. It's quiet and the weather is good for training. A few of the world's best javelin throwers are training at this facility though we do not interact much as the training timings are different," said Neeraj who is currently ranked fourth in the new rankings of the international federation.
Besides Hohn, Neeraj has three other javelin throwers – Sahil Silwal, Shivpal Yadav and Rajinder Singh – with him at the South African facility. His personal physio Ishan Marwaha is also with him.
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