Chopra confident of Tokyo performance despite disrupted preparations

Despite his preparations being disrupted by an injury and COVID-19 restrictions, star Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is confident of putting up his best performance at the Tokyo Olympics, starting on July 23.

Chopra, India’s main medal hope in athletics, has recently recovered from an ankle injury and is preparing for Tokyo Olympics in Sweden after being forced to return to India last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He had spent most of the lockdown in Patiala.

But the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt his preparations as he is not able to participate in the number of events he wants before the Olympics. Recently he had to withdraw from the Diamond League meeting, scheduled to be held on July 13 near London, as getting a visa would have taken a lot of effort and time because of the pandemic. “Travelling there in these times was not worth it,” he said.

Though the pandemic has prevented him from participating in many events, Chopra said his preparations are going on well.

“I am confident my preparations are going well. However well you prepare, what matters is how you perform on that particular day. So, I am hoping to do my best in Tokyo,” Chopra told a group of journalists during a virtual round table on Sunday.

After rewriting his national record in the Indian Grand Prix 3 with a throw of 86.7m in March, Chopra has participated in three meets in Europe and achieved distances of 83.18 in Lisbon, 80.96 in Karlstad, Sweden, and 86.79 in Kuortane Grand Prix in Finland.

Chopra, who was out of action for eight months in 2019 due to an elbow injury, admitted that his performance has been a bit up and down but said that was expected and happens with other top stars too.

“It has happened with (Marcin) Krukowski (Poland) and with (Keshorn) Walcott (of Trinidad and Tobago) too,” said Chopra.

Krukowski, Walcott, and Chopra along with season leader Johannes Vetter of Germany are expected to compete for medals in Tokyo.

“Everyone thinks that I am unable to repeat the performance as I did at the Federation Cup and the Grand Prix series. In the two competitions that I have participated in here, I have achieved a shorter distance. In Finland, I did okay but it was not close to my personal best. I think there is a time when you achieve a certain distance and then in the next meet, you are unable to achieve the same. This happens with everyone,” said Chopra.

The 23-year-old said pulling out of the London Diamond League meet in the UK would not affect his preparations as the effort that would have to go into making the arrangement made it not worth it.

Asked whether not participating in enough events will have an impact on his performance in Tokyo, Chopra admitted that he has not been able to participate in as many events as Vetter, the season leader with a throw of 96.29m in May who has participated in more than seven events so far.

“It is right that I have not been able to participate in as many top-tier events as I would have liked because of the pandemic. But then I have done some meets against the guys that I would run into in Tokyo. In the end, what matters is what you do on that particular day,” said Chopra.

He said he would now be doing light training in the three weeks remaining for the javelin throw final in Tokyo and hoped for the best.