Secure Olympics spot kept Neeraj Chopra going during lockdown

The Indian athlete threw a distance of 87.86m at an event in Potchefstroom in January to secure his Olympic spot.

Managing to book his Tokyo Olympics berth before the pandemic deferred all qualifying events went a long way in keeping Neeraj Chopra mentally strong during the lockdown.

The ace javelin thrower is one of the only five Indian track and field athletes who have booked their tickets to Tokyo.

"I think the fact that I qualified for the Olympics was really important in helping me avoid a lot of frustration that some other athletes are facing,” Neeraj Chopra told ESPN.

“If I had been forced to stay in the lockdown without playing that tournament, I would have started having negative thoughts,” he explained.

Sidelined with an elbow injury for the large part of 2019, Neeraj Chopra was eyeing some competition time at the ACNE League meeting in Potchefstroom after a 16-month long rehabilitation.

However, the athlete ended up qualifying for the Olympics instead as he surprised all by throwing a record distance of 87.86m, surpassing the 85m Olympic cut-off mark.

With the confidence in his abilities restored, the javelin thrower was able to keep his cool as he was confined to his hotel room in Patiala.

“Even though I had recovered from my injury, I'd never have known if I actually had the ability to throw that far,” Neeraj Chopra said.

“Now, I already know that I'm capable of throwing at least that much. So it's only a matter of waiting," he added.

Learning through rehab

Neeraj Chopra had been injured at a time when he was still celebrating his gold medal feats at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

Having tightness in his shoulder while throwing the javelin had resulted in an elbow injury, which led the athlete to go under the knife. Consequently, Neeraj Chopra had to train alone and undergo a lonely rehab in 2019.

And the athlete says that the experience played a significant role in helping him to keep patience in the last few months.

"I learned a lot in how to deal with these things last year,” explained Neeraj Chopra. “I got plenty of experience of having to stay away from the field.

"I really struggled back then. I kept wondering when I would be able to return. 

“In this situation, at least I knew I could start throwing whenever the lockdown ended,” he said.

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