Indian athletics

‘How does Neeraj know what is good for him?’ AFI chief against javelin thrower training in Germany

Despite his CWG gold after training with Werner Daniels, Sumariwalla believes that the 20-year-old doesn’t understand what is best for him

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra won a sensational gold medal at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast with a seasonal best of 86.47 metres. In the process, he became only the fourth Indian individual in the history of the Games to win a track and field gold.

However, despite his achievement under German coach Werner Daniels, the Athletics Federation of India believes that the 20-year-old doesn’t understand what is best for him and therefore shouldn’t return to Germany for training.

AFI president Adille Sumariwalla went on to say that he “dead against” him going to Germany and would prefer if he remained in the national camp instead.

“How does Neeraj know what is good for him? We know all the training centres, we know all the coaches. How can a 20-year-old boy know, we have 20 years of experience,” Sumariwalla was quoted as saying by The Hindu.

This means that India’s best javelin thrower and possibly the best athlete in the country currently will be with his third coach in the span of one year ahead of the Asian Games later this year. The continental championship are a crucial test for the youngster, who is already the Asian champion.

The world junior record holder was earlier coached by Australian Garry Calvert, who was with him when he stormed to the under-20 world championship gold in 2016.

Daniels, who was Chopra’s coach for the last few months leading up to CWG, has also coached former world champion Christina Obergfoll. He is also part of the team for reigning javelin world champion Johannes Vetter, who is coached by Obergfoll’s husband Boris.

Already, there has been much talk over Chopra initially opting to train in Germany and not with Uwe Hohn, who was newly appointed as India’s coach for javelin throw. He did return and train with the coach at the national camp. However, the appointment of German Hohn, the only man with a 100m-plus throw, has also not been without controversy over pay and facilities.

On his part, Chopra said that he has learnt a lot from both Daniels and Hown.

“I’ve been improving steadily. For three months, I’d been in Germany, to train there. Working with Werner Daniels in Germany was also very helpful, and I’ve been training and learning from Uwe Hown also. I worked with the coach in Patiala too. I’ve learnt a lot from these coaches in the last six months,” he was quoted as saying by Tribune India after his gold-medal winning feat in Australia.

For now, it is unclear whether Chopra will go against the AFI diktat but what is evident is that the governing body thinks highly of the 20-year-old’s choices and wants him to follow the path charted by them. How that affects his performance remains to be seen.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What are racers made of?

Grit, strength and oodles of fearlessness.

Sportspersons are known for their superhuman discipline, single-minded determination and the will to overcome all obstacles. Biographies, films and documentaries have brought to the fore the behind-the-scenes reality of the sporting life. Being up at the crack of dawn, training without distraction, facing injuries with a brave face and recovering to fight for victory are scenes commonly associated with sportspersons.

Racers are no different. Behind their daredevilry lies the same history of dedication and discipline. Cornering on a sports bike or revving up sand dunes requires the utmost physical endurance, and racers invest heavily in it. It helps stave off fatigue and maintain alertness and reaction time. It also helps them get the most out of their racecraft - the entirety of a racer’s skill set, to which years of training are dedicated.

Racecraft begins with something as ‘simple’ as sitting on a racing bike; the correct stance is the key to control and manoeuvre the bike. Riding on a track – tarmac or dirt is a great deal different from riding on the streets. A momentary lapse of concentration can throw the rider into a career ending crash.

Physical skill and endurance apart, racers approach a race with the same analytical rigour as a student appearing in an exam. They conduct an extensive study of not just the track, but also everything around it - trees, marshal posts, tyre marks etc. It’s these reference points that help the racer make braking or turning decisions in the frenzy of a high-stakes competition.

The inevitability of a crash is a reality every racer lives with, and seeks to internalise this during their training. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, racers are trained to keep their eyes open to help the brain make crucial decisions to avoid collision with other racers or objects on the track. Racers that meet with accidents can be seen sliding across the track with their heads held up, in a bid to minimise injuries to the head.

But racecraft is, of course, only half the story. Racing as a profession continues to confound many, and racers have been traditionally misunderstood. Why would anyone want to pour their blood, sweat and tears into something so risky? Where do racers get the fearlessness to do laps at mind boggling speed or hurtle down a hill unassisted? What about the impact of high speeds on the body day after day, or the monotony of it all? Most importantly, why do racers race? The video below explores the question.

Play


The video features racing champions from the stable of TVS Racing, the racing arm of TVS Motor Company, which recently completed 35 years of competitive racing in India. TVS Racing has competed in international rallies and races across some of the toughest terrains - Dakar, Desert Storm, India Baja, Merzouga Rally - and in innumerable national championships. Its design and engineering inputs over the years have also influenced TVS Motors’ fleet in India. You can read more about TVS Racing here.

This article has been produced by Scroll Brand Studio on behalf of TVS Racing and not by the Scroll editorial team.