Neeraj Chopra cancels South Africa trip, to train in US
The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has forced India’s Olympic Games gold medal-winning javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra to cancel his training trip to Potchefstroom in South Africa.
His team is now looking for a venue somewhere on the west coast of the US. Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center in South California is the preferred choice.
“We are looking for options. Chula Vista will be the best for Neeraj,” a source told The Telegraph on Thursday.
In January 2020, the Khel Ratna winner, returning from an injury, had qualified for Tokyo Olympics at Potchefstroom. Neeraj was supposed to fly out to South Africa in the wee hours of Saturday.
“He will be in the US for the next four months at least and in the summer he will move to Europe. That’s the plan. But with the threat of the new variant, we will take one step at a time. Everything was in place. The Athletics Federation of India and Sports Authority of India had given the green light for the South Africa training. But we had to cancel the trip,” the source said.
Ever since Neeraj won gold, there has been a flood of felicitations across the country. The latest will be his visit to Sanskardham School in Ahmedabad on Saturday, to raise awareness about the importance of ‘Santulit Aahaar’ (a balanced diet), fitness, and sports among children.
Neeraj had announced in late August that he has ended his season. In a post shared on Instagram, the javelin champion had stated that his packed schedule, a bout of illness and the lack of training had forced him to take the decision. He began practising at the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Patiala, from mid-October.
Next year will be hectic for India’s new superstar. “Ideally he should be starting with the Diamond League in Doha on May 13,” the source added.
The World Championships (July 14-24, Oregon, US), Commonwealth Games (July 28-August 8, Birmingham, England) and Asian Games (September 10-25, Hangzhou, China) are the mega-events in 2022 where Neeraj will be the cynosure.