After some crazy four months in India post the Olympics glory, Neeraj Chopra landed in USA to begin his training and in the first month itself lost 12 kgs that he had gained while celebrating the gold medal and also attending weddings in his family.
For almost six months now, Neeraj has been away from home. This is not the first time he has done it. His life has revolved only around training, diets and throwing javelins. And nothing has changed because for an athlete, nothing can change and nothing must change.
Usually these sporting stars do the most boring things behind the camera. Neeraj is no differemt, only that he does not treat himself as a star.
Let it fly _ pic.twitter.com/FDNzCLeKFl
— Neeraj Chopra (@Neeraj_chopra1) May 22, 2022
“Life these days is about going from room to ground to room to ground. But if this life was not there, there would be no me. If I am with family and friends, it is then that I feel something is missing. But when training is going on, and I am in touch with family and friends over phone, then I am fine. My hard work and training gives me more satisfation,” Neeraj tells a group of Indian journalists from a training facility in Turkey over a Zoom call.
Over there, this 25-year-old ‘humble’ freak isn’t a star and he does not treat himself as one either. When asked whether he feels he has become one after the Tokyo Olympics heroics, he simply smiles and tells the name of the legends he has been in training with in the last couple of weeks and that it is enough to make him realise, he is no star.
“Look, I am here in Turkey, where I just trained with Johannes Vetter, Jan Zelezny, Thoman Rohler. I cannot think of myself as a star in front of them. Zelezny has 3 Olympics gold. He does not think himself as a star then who am I?,” says Neeraj.
Neeraj is not just an individual Olympics gold medallist from India, which in itself is a rarity in this country. After all, there are only two. But he is also a realist, someone who understands privilege and luck in life and sport respectively. This is why you think he will not stop soon. This is why you think he is going to get another one. This is why you feel he is near to that elusive 90m mark which is not far. For an athlete with such clarity and understanding of self, no task or challenge should be bigger.
Clicked from my room in Turkey. No better view for an athlete to wake up to! pic.twitter.com/aG6IJCxh9B
— Neeraj Chopra (@Neeraj_chopra1) April 10, 2022
“I feel I am lucky. That I could win the medal for my country. The god chose me. I had a dream and I could fulfill it. I am not sure about being a poster boy or golden boy. I will be happier if we win more medals at world events and Olympics,” Neeraj says while reflecting on his growing stardom in India.
In Turkey, he has trained alongside the world’s best and in less than a month, the fit-again champion will begin testing his skills again.
He currently does throwing twice a week in ground and slowly the number of days will grow when the competition date nears. The work on strength is on as well. The
Tokyo _ pic.twitter.com/1fy0VM2jLI
— Neeraj Chopra (@Neeraj_chopra1) April 2, 2022
“Turkey helped me do some throwing sessions. Worked on my strength and technique. Now with less than a month remaining for the first competition, our focus is now to do some work on ground, do some throws and throw at good distance, and reduce training time.”
Neeraj will begin his ‘delayed’ season on June 14 at Paavo Nurmi Hames in Turku, Finland. He plays in two more events in June: Kuortane Games in Finland and Stockholm Diamond League.
In July, he will be playing in World Championships in Oregon. In August, the Olympic champion will be busy in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. It will be followed by Monaco Diamond League and then Lausanne Diamond League. His season will come to an end with Zurich Diamond League final.
After almost 10 months from Tokyo Games, Neeraj will be joining a competition yet he feels no signs of pressure or nervousness as of now. And he wonders if it will show up when he is about to throw his first javelin on June 14. This despite the constant 90m talks and the fellow competitors like Anderson Peters breaking the mark recently.
“There is no target pressure. In fact, I am not feeling any nerves or pressure. Maybe I will feel pressure when I am in the competition. Training is going well. If focus is on training, then it does good to your mental and physical health.
“I want to cross the 90m mark but I am not too eager to cross that mark in just the first competition of the year. I don’t want to rush myself but yes, I want to do it in this season, maybe at some stage in this year,” says the Padma Shri awardee.
The more realist approach is not 90m but beginning the season with nothing less than 88m. And later push to increase the distance.
That’s the plan, says Neeraj before adding, “Baaki toh dekhte hain ji.”