The Athletics Federation of India’s High Performance Director, Volker Herrmann wants to avoid putting star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra under too much pressure when talking about his hopes of winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
“Competition in javelin is very tough, there are a couple of throwers who are capable of going over 90m,” Volker Herrmann told The Hindu. “He has the potential.
“At the same time, it will also be his first Olympics. Often young athletes need to get one Olympic cycle. I don’t want to pressurise him,” he pointed out.
Neeraj Chopra: India's brightest hope?
Neeraj Chopra, who won gold at the 2018 Asian Games as well as the Commonwealth Games that year, qualified for the Tokyo Games earlier in January with an 87.86 metres throw that was well over the Olympic qualifying mark set at 85 metres.
The 22-year-old is also the national record holder and one of India’s brightest medal hopes for Tokyo next year, but Volker Herrmann feels that the young Indian’s main focus should be making the final in Japan and that his chances of a podium finish will be higher at the 2024 Olympics.
“I think it’s better for him to aim for the final and if you’re among the top eight, anything can happen. But I don’t want to say that Neeraj will win a medal, that’s a bit too early. Of course, we will all be happy if he does. But I think that should be his goal for 2024,” Volker Herrmann said.
The Indian High Performance Director also insisted that both Neeraj Chopra and Shivpal Singh – India’s other javelin thrower to have qualified for Tokyo – will be in better shape for the Olympics in 2021 since they will be a year older.
“Both of them were in very good shape, they could have come up with very good results this year. But they will be a year older and since they are very young, I believe they might be able to do even better in 2021,” Volker Herrmann added.
Shivpal Singh secured his Olympic berth last month after an 85.47m throw at the ACNW League Meeting in Potchefstroom in South Africa and India’s javelin coach, the legendary Uwe Hohn believes that both he and Neeraj Chopra are capable of crossing the 90m-mark.
Neeraj Chopra, Shivpal Singh, racewalkers KT Irfan and Bhawna Jat along with Avinash Sable, who specializes in the 3000 metres steeplechase, have already qualified for Tokyo as part of the Indian athletics contingent.