When Neeraj Chopra began his 2022 season, there were more eyeballs on him than ever before. The success in Tokyo had brought him attention. From August to December 2021, he had just attended feliciation ceremonies, functions and weddings which affected his training schedule. It was only in late December that he began his training in USA and it had to start with cutting down on the weight. Neeraj had gained 12 kgs in four months as he ate whatever he had missed out on. The first month was spent cutting down the fat percentage in body. This eventually delayed his season as he missed the Doha Diamond League 2022.
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After a long break of ten months, Neeraj began his season at Turku Paavo Nurmi Games and threw 89.30m to break his own national record. That throw was a statement to the naysayers, who felt that his Olympic heroics was a fluke. The 25-year-old from Haryana did not stop there. He broke his national record again with a throw of 89.94m at the Stockholm Diamond League, won the silver medal at World Championship despite a troubled thigh and also became the first Indian to win a Diamond League title. In a nutshell, Neeraj made history again last season.
In his second season after Olympics, he has more eyeballs on him, more fan following and the weight of expectations is also slighty more this time. Neeraj realises the growing popularity and levels of expectations but he still wants to remain in present and not overthink about his performances.
How Neeraj aims to end the 90m mark question
Ahead of the Doha Diamond League, Neeraj put more focus on working on his muscles. His coach Klaus Bartonietz has worked hard on this aspect of training as the star javelin thrower aims to ‘end questions on elusive 90m distance’.
“Training program remains almost the same at the start of the season. But we have tried to do something extra in the pre-season camps. I was running with weights attached to me through a string, doing cross steps with javelin. This is to work on the specific muscle group to gain more strength. We increased the weights during strength training to work on those muscles. We cannot push too much and change too much but yes, the focus was on improvement,” Neeraj had told group of journalists ahead of the new season.
A secluded life abroad and importance of an understanding coach
The association with Klaus has worked wonders for Neeraj. The coach and the athlete relationship matters a lot in individual sports. Neeraj says that Klaus’ calming presence and jovial nature helps him a great deal. He adds that while a coach is important, an athlete needs to better understand his body and its need in an individual sport as he or she is alone when the action takes place. But Klaus’ work in the background reflects in every successful throw that Neeraj pulls off.
Not to forget, Neeraj spends most of the year, training in different countries and the life revolves around training than doing anything else. Neeraj, Klaus and his physio Ishaan Marwaha live, eat, train together abroad. For others, this life can sound very boring but to Neeraj, this is what makes him happy.
‘Mujhe maza aata hai ( I like doing training). I don’t regret not hanging out with friends and attending wedding functions. I miss training even when I am home. This here is my personal life and I am happy with it,” said Neeraj.
Also Read | ‘Questions On Touching 90m Mark Will End This Time’, Neeraj Chopra Says Ahead Of 2023 Season
What new areas has Neeraj worked ahead of the 2023 season?
Neeraj trained in United Kingdom, South Africa and Turkey before the season. One of the reasons he trains abroad is being away from all the noise and series of invitations to attend events. Whe he trains, he needs the secluded life. The other reason, of course, is training grounds where everything is available under one roof as well as training with the best athletes in the world. He did a 63-day training camp at Loughborough University in UK where the focus was on the stamina endurance. Neeraj did some gymastics exercises as well as running during this period to build stamina.
In South Africa, the focus shifted to strength. The target over here was to throw heavy medicine balls and get better strength-wise, work on throwing muscles. In Turkey, Neeraj says that one gets to train with the best Track and Field athletes from the world and it also gives you the right weather to train ahead of a long season as most of the tournaments happen in Europe where you get similar conditions. Secondaly, travelling becomes easy from Turkey to all these European countries.
Consistent good throws more important than breaching 90m mark
The 90m question always comes up at least once during a Neeraj Chopra press conference. He has been answering these questions consistently since the last season. He was almost there in 2022, missing it by just 0.6 cm in Stockholm. Ahead of the new season, Neeraj is confident he will breach the mark in the tournaments to come. But at the same time, his philosophy of being more consistent remains his primary focus. After all, the same philosophy got him the gold medal at Olympics. Neeraj says, on some days 90 metre may not be enough while on other days, an 86m may make you a world champion.
“It is not that 90m is not important to me. 90m club is a famous club that includes all the greats of the game and I would love to be a part of it and hopefully, I will enter the club too this time but being consistent at throwing good distance wins you medals and that will be important for us,” Neeraj concluded.