Unwilling to be bogged down by weight of expectations, junior world record holder javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra says he will go step by step to achieve his goals at the senior level.
To start with, the 19-year-old wants to peak during the August World Championships in London and do better than his 86.48m effort at the World Junior Championships last year.
He qualified for the IAAF flagship event with a throw of 83.32m during the second leg of the Asian Grand Prix in China last month.
“My target (in Asian Grand Prix) was to qualify for the World Championships. The conditions were very good in China. I have achieved the target of qualifying (for the World Championships). Now it is time to prepare well and do well in London,” Neeraj said.
“I will have to work hard and prepare well. I want to peak during the World Championships in London and do better than the record I achieved during the World Junior Championships last year,” he told PTI in an interview.
Asked about his former coach Garry Calvert’s comments that he will be able to throw 90m-plus some day, Neeraj said, “I am working hard to get better and reach that mark. I reached 86.48m last year and I want to do better that that during the World Championships. Some day, I hope to get past 90m.
“But I want to do it slowly and steadily. I don’t want to take pressure,” he added.
Calvert left abruptly after his request for contract extension till 2020 Olympics at a higher pay package was shot down by the Athletics Federation of India, whose officials wanted him to wait till the World Championships.
Neeraj said that AFI officials have told him that they will get a very good coach for him soon.
“AFI is saying that a good coach will be hired for me. I am hopeful that will happen soon.”
Neeraj said his schedule for the season is yet to be chalked out.
“There is still no plan and schedule for me. The two main events this year are the Asian Championships in July (in Bhubaneswar) and World Championships in August. I have to decide whether to take part in Federation Cup and the National Inter-State.
“I want to take part in top international events like Diamond League before the World Championships, but nothing is confirmed as of now,” said the Haryana athlete.
“I will have to decide my schedule with the AFI people.”
Neeraj won the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on May 11 with a modest throw of 80.49m.
Asked about that performance, he said, “I am not happy with my performance. It was an average throw. The runway was very bad, weather was also hot. Even with a bad runway I got that distance. It was an OK performance, I will do better in the upcoming events.”
Neeraj was recently appointed a Junior Commissioned Officer of the Indian Army and that allowed him to help his farmer father in running their big joint family.
“Everybody is happy at home now. It is a big joint family, with my parents and grandparents. Nobody in my family knows about sports but they still support me. They are happy that I am doing well in my sport,” Neeraj signed off.