One of the prime prospects for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, India’s Neeraj Chopra, believes that the Games, even though pushed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be more than worth the wait.
The 22-year-old javelin thrower was on his comeback trail following a lengthy injury lay-off when the coronavirus outbreak brought life to a standstill across the globe.
Though Neeraj Chopra qualified for the Tokyo Games with an 87.86-metre throw at the ACNW League meeting in January, he has been deprived of proper training and competition ever since.
But despite the prevailing situation, the Indian javelin star felt that the hunger to see top athletes perform at the biggest stage once the world is out of the pandemic will spur interest in the Tokyo Games even more.
“I believe the fact that there has not been any sport for so long -- everyone has been away from the action for months now -- will only spur interest and competition.
“Both for athletes, who are desperate to get back on the ground, and the public who wants to see them – I think 2021 can be a great Olympics,” he told Sportstar.
On a personal level, Neeraj Chopra wants to make the most of the time that he’s got to prepare for the Games.
“I was probably not 100 per cent fit after the surgery I had,” the Indian told Reuters from the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala.
“So the goal will be to be even better prepared than I was for this year’s Games.
“I had found very little time to work on my technique as I was concentrating more on rehab. I didn’t have much time to work on my throws as I started very late. Now I will try to solve the problems that I have noticed.”
Life under lockdown
Neeraj Chopra was forced to return from his training base in Turkey and was under self-quarantine at NIS when a nation-wide lockdown was announced in India. The Indian ace has been held up there ever since.
But despite the restrictions, the Haryana-born is making the most of the time to work on himself within the confines of the elite athletes’ hostel in Patiala.
With access to the gym limited, Neeraj Chopra is innovating with whatever little he can get his hands on. This involves throwing medicine balls that weigh anywhere from 800 grams to 1.5kg or using the slackline wire to work on his balance.
“There is theraband in my room for strength training, skipping, sprinting and running small distances, climbing and jumping stairs, core strength training, ab exercises – you innovate and find ways to train,” he told Sportstar.
However, despite his best efforts, Neeraj Chopra realises that his body isn’t taking enough load as he would have liked. But that isn’t bothering him much.
“I am not worried about it. It is nothing that cannot be worked out. Once training starts, I can be back to optimum fitness in two weeks’ time,” he signed off.