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regular-article-logo Monday, 20 May 2024

Neeraj Chopra counts on Roger Federer insight as he is to begin 2024 season with Doha leg of Diamond League

With Paris Olympic Games just a little more than three months away, Neeraj faces arduous task of living up to expectations and defending gold medal he won in Tokyo in 2021

Angshuman Roy Calcutta Published 12.04.24, 10:54 AM
Neeraj Chopra (left), in this photo shared by the javelin champion on X in January, discusses a point with tennis maestro Roger Federer in Zurich  

Neeraj Chopra (left), in this photo shared by the javelin champion on X in January, discusses a point with tennis maestro Roger Federer in Zurich  

India’s javelin superstar Neeraj Chopra will begin his 2024 season on May 10 with the Doha leg of the Diamond League.

With the Paris Olympic Games just a little more than three months away, Neeraj faces the arduous task of living up to the expectations and defending the gold medal he won in Tokyo in 2021.

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Post August 7, 2021, Neeraj’s life has changed. He has attained cult status in India, won the silver in the World Championships in 2022, and the yellow metal the next year.

He brought home the Asian Games gold from Hangzhou last year and also won the Diamond League Finals in 2022.

In his first news conference of the year, organised by his sponsor JSW Sports, the 26-year-old — always calm and composed — spoke on everything under the sun from Antalya, Turkey, where he is gearing up for the most challenging season of his successful playing career.

His preparations for the Paris Games, breaching the 90m mark, fitness issues, the World Athletics’s decision to introduce cash prize in the Olympic Games, Max Dehning, the new sensation from Germany, meeting Roger Federer in January and compatriot Kishore Jena.

Breaching 90 metres

“I will try to breach the 90m mark before the Paris Games. Everything is going smoothly, so (people) might not have to wait till the Olympics, it might happen before that. The preparation is good,” he said.

Neeraj, whose personal best of 89.94 metres came during the 2022 Stockholm Diamond League, though added he wouldn’t be surprised if the 28-year-old Jena beats him to the coveted mark.

Preparing for Paris

“After Tokyo, my self-confide­nce has gone up,” said Neeraj. “Besides, I have played quite a few events and the success between Tokyo and Paris has given me a lot of confidence that I can do it against strong competitors. It’s the second Olympics, so I am more prepa­red, mentally and physically. A good off-season helped too.”

New kid on the block

Dehning, the 19-year-old German sensation, has barged into the 90-metre club as
its youngest member and Neeraj said he would enjoy his challenge.

“I will have the chance to compete with Max this year — he’s already confirmed his participation at the Paavo Nurmi Games. He skipped the 80 (metres) completely. From 70m, he (straightway) came up with a throw of 90m. I will enjoy his challenge.”

Peek into ace brain

Neeraj met Swiss tennis legend Federer in Zurich during a function organised by Swiss Tourism this January.

“Being an athlete, it was great to meet a legend,” Neeraj said of the 20-time grand slam champion. “He gave positive vibes. I asked him how he remained at the top of his game for such a long time. I asked him ‘how did you do that?’

“Though our sports are different, I still got to know how he mentally prepared himself. He said, ‘one needs to balance his schedule, what all tournaments one has to play, pick and choose sensibly to avoid injuries and fatigue’. I try to do the same things,” he revealed.

Cash in Olympics

“In athletics, there isn’t the kind of money that is in tennis or football.

“The World Athletics’ decision to announce prize money for gold-winning athletes in Paris is a good start. I hope they will also give monetary incentives in the Diamond League,” Neeraj said.

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