Neeraj Chopra: It's not about breaking records or beating someone, aim is to improve yourself

Chopra will compete at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland on June 14, followed by the Kuortane Games four days later and the Stockholm Diamond League and the World Championships.

FILE PHOTO: Neeraj Chopra will be seen next at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland.   -  PTI

Interacting with Neeraj Chopra is always refreshing.

Stardom sits easy on the 25-year old who speaks with as much clarity as he trains and competes and there is always something new in his answers to even the most cliched questions.

On Saturday, from his training base in Turkey, the Olympic gold medalist outlined his immediate targets and challenges and neither of them had anything to do with the competition.

“There is no fixed target for any specific event, I try not to take that pressure on myself. Yes, there is the aim of crossing 90m which I have always said and I am hopeful it will happen this year but there is no deadline to it – definitely not in the first event of the season itself. What others do also doesn’t matter,” Chopra was candid in his first media interaction this year.

 

Chopra is expected to get back into competition for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland on June 14, followed by the Kuortane Games four days later and the Stockholm Diamond League and the World Championships, the main target for this year.

“Whether there is any additional pressure or there is any change in my performance will be known only when I step into the competition. But so far in training, there is no difference.

It is going good and as per our plans and schedule. I always believe how you train is reflected in how you compete. If training, recovery and diet are good then you are in a happy space mentally also and that is important for a good performance,” he added.

What he does know is that his competitors are simply that. Asked about reigning world champion Anderson Peters throwing the gauntlet for the season with 93m plus recently, Chopra was unruffled.

“It’s never about breaking records or beating someone but doing your best to improve yourself. By that logic, Johannes Vetter has crossed 97m also. What we have discussed with the coach also is that an 86-87-88m in the season opener should be good enough. I don’t ever go into a competition with the pressure of distance,” he insisted.

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Training abroad amidst multiple champions also helps. Ask him if the feeling of being a star has finally sunk in, Chopra gives a wry smile.

“There are the likes of Vetter, (Thomas) Rohler training here, Jan Zelezny is here (as a coach). He has won Olympic gold thrice. They are all so normal and down-to-Earth, how can I even start thinking of myself as a star?”

He doesn’t even see himself as a ‘poster boy’. “People can give you any title. Everyone works hard but I consider myself lucky I could do this for our country and Indian athletics, fulfilling my dream and of everyone else. But I will be happiest if my medal helps inspire others and more join me. There will then be many more posters,” he laughed.

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