There was a feeling of uncertainty in his mind when Neeraj Chopra prepared for his first throw at the Lausanne Diamond League on June 30. The Tokyo Olympic champion in the men’s javelin throw event was making his competitive comeback after a month-long layoff due to an injury he picked up in training.

Admittedly not at his 100 percent, Chopra recorded a below-par throw with his first attempt and intentionally stepped beyond the foul line to not let the throw be recorded against his name.

His second throw was 83.52m which he improved to 85.04m with his third only to foul his fourth attempt. By this time, however, Chopra had found his rhythm and with his fifth attempt, hurled the javelin 87.66m to take him to the top of the standings. That mark would remain unbreachable by his competition on the night, giving Chopra his second Diamond League meet win of the season and all but secure his place in the Final later this year in Eugene, United States.

“Honestly, there was a doubt in my mind if I was a 100 percent,” Chopra said in an online interaction organised by the Sports Authority of India. “In training I was feeling okay. But when you go to the competition, I was thinking over and over again if I could push myself. The first three-four throws were made in that state of mind.

“But I realised I could push myself. I sped up for the fifth throw and there was improvement. The weather and the injury was playing on my mind before. Because of the format of the Diamond League, there are multiple meets and opportunities to win points. If I was at the Asian Games or the World Championships, I might have pushed from the start itself.”

The slow and steady buildup to the fifth throw, though necessitated by his injury, also helped him show that he could come up with a big throw even towards the end. One of Chopra’s strengths has been to start with a bang and put his competitors under pressure. On Friday, Chopra was the one under pressure to delivery and he did it with aplomb.

“There’s no plan to throw big with your final attempt, I always want to give 100 percent with every throw,” Chopra said. “Not every throw will be an 89m. Yeah, I have done well with my first throws but even if they don’t, I always tell myself to be prepared until the last throw. I also believe that even if things are not going my way, I have it in me to throw big with the last throw.

“I wouldn’t say I was chill before the fifth throw. Jakub (Vadlejch, who finished third with a throw of 86.13m) and Julian (Weber, second with 87.03m) had made some big throws. There was pressure of course. I was trying hard but wasn’t able to throw that far.”

Having secured 16 points by winning two of the four Diamond League meets for men’s javelin throw this year, Chopra is within touching distance of securing a spot in the Diamond League Final. And he’s now put himself in a position where he’s at liberty to manage his workload effectively – he has the luxury to skip the next Diamond League meet at Monaco on July 21 in order to regain full-fitness.

Lausanne Diamond League: Neeraj Chopra wins meet, Sreeshankar Murali finishes fifth

With the delayed Asian Games set to be held at Hangzhou in Septmeber this year, Chopra needs to ensure he is in optimum shape going into his Olympic defence in Paris next year. The main goal this year however, remains going one step better than the silver medal he won at the 2022 World Athletics Championships, when he competes at the world event in Budapest, Hungary, next month.

“The main focus is to be 100 percent for the World Championships. If I am not physically fit, I will also not be mentally ready,” Chopra said.

“The aim is to be fit for Budapest and we have time for it. I don’t have pressure for the Diamond League because I have accumulated enough points to reach the final. There is still time before Monaco. We will see for up to seven days and decide on whether to compete there or not. If I feel that I am good and up for it, I will go there and compete. But if I keep competing, my fitness will go down. So I need to keep that in mind,” he added.

With a longer than usual season culminating at the Hangzhou Asian Games, which starts in September, ensuring he maintins his fitness to compete at the highest levels remains the focus for Chopra. But with the way he meticulously planned and measured his win in Lausanne on Friday, it’s clear that he has the talent, now the belief and winning formula to scale new heights.