Neeraj Chopra: Main focus on Tokyo Olympics now

Neeraj Chopra has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with a throw of 87.86m at the ACNW League meeting, making an impressive return after recovering from an elbow injury.

File Photo: Asian Games and Commonwealth Games champion Neeraj Chopra had surgery for an elbow injury.   -  AP

Almost nine months after he underwent surgery, Neeraj Chopra finally returned to action in the most comprehensive manner possible – by qualifying for Tokyo Olympics in his very first competitive outing of the year.

The 22-year old, who missed out on the entire 2019 season after elbow surgery in early May, threw 87.86m, well past the 85-metre qualifying mark, in his 4th attempt at the ACNW League Meeting in Potchefstroom, South Africa late on Tuesday evening.

 

It was his first competition following an intense rehabilitation programme, first at the National Institute of Sport, Patiala and the Inspire Institute of Sport, Vijayanagar, before shifting base to Potchefstroom in November to train under biomechanics expert Klaus Bartonietz.

“The biggest feeling is one of relief. It was very important to qualify as early as possible because I missed out on the entire last season. I knew the sooner I managed to do so, the better it would be because as time goes on, there will invariably be desperation and mistakes will creep in,” Chopra told Sportstar in an exclusive chat from his training base.

Chopra returned to rehab in September last, testing himself tentatively and even fiddling with the idea of participating in the World Championships before being advised against it. He was then expected to turn up at the National Championships in October but the Athletics Federation of India asked him to go slow.

Relieved

The rest and workout in the interim have clearly worked. In Potchefstroom, Chopra managed to easily cross the 80m mark in all his attempts, starting slow with 81.63m before gradually moving to 82.00 and 82.57.

After the 87.86m, he did not attempt any further throws to avoid extra pressure on the elbow. To put things in context, this is Chopra’s second-best throw ever, behind only the 88.06m personal best he threw at the 2018 Asian Games for gold and a new national record.

READ: The making of Neeraj Chopra

“The best thing is that I can relax now, not worry about qualification and only concentrate on training harder hereon. The main target now would be to compete in major tournaments including the Diamond League between now and Olympics, try and do my best and test myself against high-level competition and improve my performances there. But I will also have to be careful and take care of myself, not strain too much or risk injury. The main focus, though, will only be on Tokyo,” he added.