Men’s javelin Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra ended his first appearance at the Diamond League in four years in second place, and just six centimetres short of hitting the 90m mark in competition for the first time. The 24-year-old rewrote the national record once again with a new personal best of 89.94m at the event in Stockholm, Sweden. In the few weeks after returning to action after the highs of the Tokyo Olympics, he has been in good form.
Chopra threw 89.90m in his first event since Tokyo, at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland to set a new national record. He bettered that on Thursday to put himself in good stead ahead of the World Championships that starts in Eugene, Oregon on July 15.
Here are excerpts from media interaction after his performance in the Stockholm Diamond League:
How do you feel about your performance today? Did you expect to start off with 89.94m and how does it feel to get a new personal best and national record?
Yes, absolutely. When Anderson Peters crossed 90 meters [earlier in the season] I thought, haan bhai karna hai. It’s just about making sure everything is perfect, make sure the technique is fine. Only if everything is perfect can the throw go that far. When I put the effort for each through the body too gets tired. But I’m happy with the competition. All the throws were quite good, and I’m happy with this performance. It was my first Diamond League in a long time, but I’m happy with this. Will do my best in the next competitions.
What was going through your mind when Anderson Peters threw over 90m in the third attempt? Did it push you to try to go beyond him in your remaining attempts?
It wasn’t that I had to cross 90 from the first throw. The mindset was to just put in my best. It was a good first throw. It’s just that I was close to 90m, and I felt that it’ll happen. But I put in my best, so I’m happy about that.
This was your first Diamond League event after the Zurich finals in 2018. How important are the Diamond League events for you? And how does it feel to do well in such a big event?
This was my first Diamond League after that. I’ve always liked the Diamond League because all the best athletes in the world come here, everyone who comes for the Olympics and World Championships. This is a nice competition, takes places in nice cities and there’s a lot of people coming to watch. Slowly people are knowing what the Diamond League is and what are the other competitions.
This year, there have been some very close javelin events with many athletes doing well. What do you think of your chances going in to Oregon? Are you feeling any pressure as reigning Olympic gold medallist?
I don’t know, I’ll only be able to tell when I’m in Oregon. All competitions are different. But what’s there is that once the competition starts, I’ll understand if I feel the pressure of being an Olympic champion. But so far nothing like that has happened. I’ve been playing with a free mind, performing well. I don’t feel the pressure. I train at my best and give my 100% in training and in competition.
You have started your season with three events. The World Championship is next, what will you be focusing on in the next few weeks?
Next is the World Championship for me. There’s not too long yet, so I won’t change anything. I’ll maintain training the way it’s been, but try to improve on what’s already being done.
Only one Indian has ever won a World Championship medal in Athletics. Is there any added pressure on you because of that?
No, there’s no pressure because of that. I’ll just try to put in my best, sab jor laga denge. That’s what I have to do and that’s what I’ll do. There’s no thinking that it’s a World Championship. There’s no pressure on the mind, but will get to know once I’m there.