Ace Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra feels its high time Indian track and field athletes too start making their presence felt in numbers at major international competitions, adding that he at times feels lonely being the only athlete from the country competing in big events such as the Diamond League.
Chopra, the World Championships silver medallist, capped his superb season by winning the title at the Wanda Diamond League Final in Zurich on Thursday, becoming the first Indian to win the Diamond League Final Trophy. Chopra’s throw of 88.84 metres proved enough to seal the title.
Woman long jumper Anju Bobby George had won its precursor — the World Athletics Finals, as it was called then — in 2005. Anju initially won silver in that but her medal was upgraded to gold a few years later as the Russian winner of the event had a doping violation. So, Neeraj is the first Indian to win the Diamond League Trophy.
The champion thrower also requested the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to provide athletes with more chances to participate in international events and help them with foreign training stint.
Q: Do you feel lonely being the only Indian competing in top competitions such as the Diamond League?
A: It is quite unusual that despite Indian athletes doing well in the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships, I was the only Indian competing in Zurich (Wanda Diamond League Final). I see other countries have a team of athletes competing in various disciplines and I want India too to send a big contingent for such events.
Q: What do you think should be the road map for more Indians competing in major events such as the Olympics and the Asian Games?
A: I feel that more Indian athletes should participate in international events (in order to qualify for the Olympics); they are doing well currently and are getting to participate in a lot of domestic events. I would urge the AFI, SAI (Sports Authority of India), and (sports) ministry to encourage more Indians to participate in international competitions. We need more Indians to compete against top athletes in world-class competitions so that we can do better in events like the Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
It feels good that other Indian athletes are also doing well, like at the CWG and our guys did well in the World Championships too, though they did not get into podium position. I will request the national federation to provide them with more chances to participate in international events and help them with foreign training stint. Facilities are improving in India; we will soon have indoor competition and training facilities. So, we should be able to reap the rewards at international events soon.
Q: Where do you go from here after clinching gold in the Diamond League Final Trophy?
A: As per my schedule planned at the start of the year, this was my last event of the season. I would have participated in the Asian Games (in Hangzhou) around this time but that was postponed. So, my season ends with the Zurich event.
The dates for the National Games were announced recently (September 27-October 10 at six places in Gujarat). I have consulted my coach and he advised me to skip it to rest and prepare for a crucial season next year.
Q: With the World Championships 2023 to be held from August 17 to August 27 in Budapest and the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, in September, how are you going to prepare for an extremely busy season? Also, the qualification programme for Paris 2024 will also start next year and building good momentum in the run-up to the Olympics is always a good thing…
A: Rest and recreation are very important for an athlete, we can’t only think about competitions and medals. The body suffers a lot of wear and tear and fatigue during a season and proper rest during the off-season is very necessary. So, after a good off-season, I hope to return to competitions next year refreshed.