Thomas Rohler, reigning Olympic champion in men’s javelin throw, has pulled out of competing at the Tokyo Games due to a back injury, he confirmed on Monday.

“It was incredibly difficult for me to turn down Tokyo. Together with my coach I have weighed things up carefully, but in the end my health has priority,” said the 29-year-old, who injured his back while training.

“I have to listen to my body now, because I want to compete at the top level for a few more years.

“By participating at the Olympic Games, I would be risking too much, because of the back injury.”

Rohler, who is also the reigning European champion, claimed the gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games with a winning throw of 90.30m.

Even with Rohler out, Germany still has an Olympic gold medal prospect in the event in 2017 world javelin champion Johannes Vetter.

Rohler’s pull-out though may be good news for India’s Neeraj Chopra who stepped up preparations for the Tokyo Olympics with a bronze medal at the Kuortane Games, where he threw 86.79m. He finished behind Vetter who threw 93.59m and Rio bronze medallist Keshorn Walcott who achieved a distance of 89.12m.

The Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8.

(With AFP inputs)