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.