He might be the brightest spark in Indian athletics, both present and future, but Neeraj Chopra is no star. Not in the way he talks, behaves or even trains. It’s not easy to stay grounded in a country starved of athletic excellence at the world stage but Neeraj wears his achievements lightly. “Sab Badhiya hai,” is his trademark reaction to every query, everything is good.
It’s been almost two months since Neeraj Chopra was forced to return after COVID-19 broke out and the country went into lockdown. Stuck at the NIS Patiala since then, the javelin thrower admits there is no training, no going outdoors, no holding of the javelin. “But it’s ok, it is what it is and frankly, there is no option also. So what is the point of worrying or cribbing about it,” Neeraj said in an interview with Sportstar .
The only concern is the inevitable slipping of fitness levels. “Diet is fine, there are no complaints, SAI is taking good care of that. The only thing I miss sometimes is home and home food. But yes strength, stamina, fitness has gone down a bit because there is no proper training. The body isn’t taking as much load as required despite our best efforts. I am not worried about it though, it is nothing that cannot be worked out. Once proper training starts, do hafte me wapas fitness le ayenge ( I can be back to optimum fitness in two weeks’ time ),” he was confident.
Uncertain calendar, not enough time to train
He insisted that the Olympics in 2021 would be as intense and competitive as any but also admitted that not everyone might be able to pull off their best. “Some athletes may not be able to train properly or as much as they would want to because there would be less time to prepare. But I believe the fact that there has not been any sport for so long - everyone has been away from the action for months now - will only spur interest and competition. Both for athletes, who are desperate to get back on the ground, and the public who wants to see them – I think 2021 can be a great Olympics.”
With the grounds at NIS out of bounds, the only saving grace is the staggered and timed visits allowed to the gym and the small open space at the elite athletes’ hostel. “We were allowed out to train in the initial days of lockdown but not now. It’s not been too difficult through this phase except for the lack of proper training, which is important for an athlete. But other than that it’s ok. Food is fine, it’s safe here and the little space we have is used for staying active,” he said.
“There is theraband in my room for strength training, skipping, sprinting and running small distances, climbing and jumping stairs, core strength training, ab exercises – you innovate and find ways to train. There is always something to do to stay fit,” he added.
A regular on Instagram, Neeraj’s last training video was posted on April 28 and going by it, the 22-year old has managed to keep himself ready for competition, whenever it resumes. When that happens, however, remains uncertain and Neeraj agreed that even though everyone would have to rework their training going forward, there could be no planning for the year ahead unless one knew what the calendar looked like, both domestic and international.
"We will have to restart our training programme and that won’t be easy but it can be done. The problem is we can only try something after confirmation of the calendar of the competitions. There has to be a discussion with the coach, physio, federation everyone but so far there is nothing certain. We know the AFI is hoping to start competition in September but there is no official confirmation of clearance from the government. If there is competition in September then the lockdown has to be lifted before that and give everyone enough time to train and at least get back into a rhythm. We will have to wait and see when that happens.”