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I might breach the 90m mark before Paris Olympics: Neeraj Chopra

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New Delhi: Olympic gold-medallist javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is aiming to breach the 90m mark before the Paris Olympics and says the way his preparations are going, it could happen anytime soon.

Chopra’s best throw in competition came during the 2022 Stockholm Diamond League, where he hurled the spear to a distance of 89.94m. While he has breached 90m in training, he has yet to match it in competition.

The 26-year-old, who will be aiming to retain his Olympic gold in Paris, said on Thursday, “I will try to breach the 90m mark before that (Paris Olympics). Hopefully, it happens before Paris, everything is going on smoothly, so (people) might not have to wait till the Olympics, it might happen before that. The preparation is good.”

The reigning world champion’s confidence stems from the fact that he has had a good off season, where he focused on fitness and strength, coupled with the success he has achieved after winning gold in 2020 Tokyo.

“During the start of the season, the focus was on fitness and strength and no specific javelin training. I think I got a lot of improvement in technique because of that. Besides, the strength and conditioning training in South Africa and Turkey has also gone well,” said Chopra during a virtual interaction from Turkey.

Chopra added that following the Tokyo Olympics success his “self-confidence” had really gone up, which will help him tremendously going into Paris.

“After Tokyo, the self-confidence has definitely gone up. Besides, I have also played quite a few events… two world championships, a silver and a gold there, won the Diamond League trophy, made some good throws, then retained the Asian Games gold (in Hangzhou) as well.

“So, the success between Tokyo and Paris has given me a lot of confidence that yes I can do it against strong competitors,” added Chopra.

“My mind tells me it’s the second Olympics, so this time I am more mentally and physically prepared for Paris. I have not done much as far as mental training goes but I know, ‘yes this is my second Olympics’ and that feel is there.

Chopra also said he had tried to overcome the shortcomings in his technique following the Tokyo success.

“Before Tokyo, whatever shortcomings I had and during the years leading to Paris, I have worked on them. The best part is everything is going smoothly and I am very positive.”

Chopra will begin his competitive season with the Doha Diamond League Meeting on May 10, followed by the prestigious Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland on June 18, where he will be up against 19-year-old sensation Max Dehning of Germany, the latest entrant in the 90m club.

“They (two tournaments) are very crucial in the run-up to Olympics, to get that competitive feel back (after the off-season). I will also decide in consultation with my coach and team which competitions to take part in.”

Dahlin has emerged as a strong competitor of late and the youngster is set to pose a big challenge to Chopra in the months to come, following his 90.20m throw recently. But Chopra said, he is relishing the prospect of meeting him in competition.

“When I competed in Tokyo and elsewhere, most of my competitors came in boasting of 90-plus throws. So, it’s not such a big deal. What matters is what you do on that particular day.

“I am excited to compete against Dahlin. But it depends on the kind of pressure they (competitors) are able to handle. That is the biggest challenge. I’m sure I will play a lot of matches with Max (Dahlin). Never played with him before. It will be interesting, I will enjoy.

“He skipped the 80 (metres) completely. From 70m, he (straightway) came up with a throw of 90m. It (such a thing) has has happened for the first time and I will enjoy his challenge,” said Chopra.

‘KISHORE JENA COULD BREACH 90M-MARK BEFORE ME’

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Kishore Jena made waves when he won the silver medal with a throw of 87.54m at the Hangzhou Asian Games, making it a one-two finish for the country at the continental showpiece. And Chopra said, he wouldn’t be surprised if the 28-year-old beats him to the 90m mark.

“The way he has progressed in the world championships and the Asian Games, who knows Kishore might breach the 90m mark before me. 90m mark atka hua hai, but kabhi na kabhi ho jayega (That 90m-mark has not come thus far, but some day it will happen).”

The star athlete added that the Paris weather will not pose much of a challenge to him as it would be slightly on the warmer side, though not as hot as Tokyo.

“Paris will also be be somewhat hot, I am used to it. But when the weather is cold, I have some problems. Because in the time between throws, you need to continuously do stretching, sprinting and other things to to keep the body warm.”

Chopra, however, added that he is ready for any sort of challenge.

“Personally, I like warm weather. But no matter the conditions, we have to be prepared for that and keep ourselves mentally conditioned for that particular weather.

“We cannot go into a competition with a pre-conceived mindset about the weather, it will only harm the performance.” (PTI)

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