The Indian cricket team’s triumph in the series-deciding Test match against Australia in Brisbane last week was special in more ways than one.
India, riddled by injuries, not only beat a full-strength Australia at the Gabba but did it with a rookie team that rose to the occasion with aplomb.
The series Down Under also stood out because it was played during a period when outdoor activities had been restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the Indian cricket team spending more time inside a bio-bubble than on a cricket pitch, the players had to be on top of their mental game to face the Aussie challenge.
And for Indian javelin ace Neeraj Chopra, there are lessons to be learnt from this experience.
“Undoubtedly it’s a great feeling to see the cricketers do well in such testing conditions. And if the Olympic Games are to happen in a similar situation, we have to be prepared for it,” said Neeraj Chopra in an interview.
“The guys have shown us that you can perform even in the most testing conditions. That’s a learning experience for me. Yes, ideally you wouldn’t want a bio-bubble or be restricted to a room during competition. But if things don’t pan out that way, that’s something we have to be prepared for.”
The 24-year-old Asian Games champion has also had his bio-bubble experience last year. After returning from Potchefstroom, South Africa, where he qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, Neeraj Chopra spent the next few months locked inside the athletes’ hostel at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala.
While the initial period was easy, the Haryana-born athlete said that he had to look for avenues to keep himself busy as the lockdown prolonged.
“Initially, we were told it would be a two-month thing, but then it kept extending. We started treating it like our off-season. Some light training, just about to keep ourselves fit. It was just to keep ourselves in shape, aisa nahi lagna tha ki hum athlete hi nahi hai (it shouldn’t feel like that we aren’t athletes),” Neeraj said.
“But then with time, it started to change. There was a volleyball court inside the hostel campus, so that became our go-to thing for entertainment. I think, like most of us around the world, we too were caught in this rut. We would watch movies. It was a bit different, but I won’t say we were bored.”
Back among his peers in the Indian javelin set-up in Bhubaneshwar, Neeraj Chopra is busy preparing for what promises to be one of the most important seasons in his career. And with Tokyo Olympics just months away, Chopra has identified areas that need some serious work.
“I have been working on my strength and technique lately, not on the distance. I have been covering 72-75 metres. There's still some time left to get into the competitive frame of mind,” Neeraj said.
Neeraj Chopra’s last throw in competition measured 87.86 metres while his personal best stands at 88.06m. Neeraj is aiming to get past the 90m mark.