Neeraj has two big goals this season

The 18-year-old, from Panipet in Haryana, has also been the best Indian thrower in the men’s category this year with a series of efforts over 79m after hitting a National-record equalling 82.23m while winning the South Asian Games gold in Guwahati in February.

A file picture of Neeraj Chopra.   -  K. Murali Kumar

He is the world’s best junior javelin thrower this season and if his performances in the last few weeks are anything to go by, Neeraj Chopra should be a strong favourite for the gold at the under-20 Worlds in Poland next month.

The 18-year-old, from Panipet in Haryana, has also been the best Indian thrower in the men’s category this year with a series of efforts over 79m after hitting a National-record equalling 82.23m while winning the South Asian Games gold in Guwahati in February.

But surprisingly, Neeraj could manage just a silver at the recent Asian junior athletics championship in Vietnam with an opening effort of 77.60m.

Neeraj, probably the most talented thrower India has ever had, has two big goals this season — to win a medal at the under-20 World Championship which kicks off in Bydgoszcz in Poland on July 19 but before that to qualify for the Rio Olympics before the doors close on July 11.

And it is clear that the two goals, close to each other, is pulling the youngster down. “I had four competitions within 20 days, with a lot of travelling involved…my body was very tired,” the youngster told Sportstar about his Junior Asian show, from his training base at Spala, Poland, on Wednesday night.

“And for this competition in Vietnam, I had a one-day journey. I am really very sad because my target is to represent India at the Olympics.”

The fact that he is yet to make the entry of 83m for the Olympics, with just about a month to go before the qualification period ends, appears to be weighing him down.

He needs to cross the Rio hurdle soon to focus on the under-20 Worlds with a confident head but the youngster may have to wait a bit before his next competitive fling.

“I may have some 20 to 25 days training now before my next competition,” said Neeraj, the son of a farmer.

Neeraj is returning from an injury and the silver show in Vietnam was probably due to the strain of a long journey from Poland, felt C.K. Valson, the Secretary of the Athletics Federation of India.

“He missed the Federation Cup (in New Delhi in late April) because of an injury. But he is in safe hands with the Australian javelin coach Garry Calvert guiding him,” said Valson on Thursday.

According to Garry, Neeraj is a natural and has the wonderful ability to delay releasing his arm for his throws, which takes years to master.“The javelin throw is all about getting the longest movement of the throwing arm in the shortest amount of time,” the experienced coach had said recently.

“Neeraj has an instinctive feel for the long movement. Most throwers, in an attempt to throw the javelin as quickly as possible, don’t draw their throwing arm as far as they could. The longer they delay releasing their arm, the more distance they can get. Today, perhaps just the best five throwers have that quality. Neeraj has that ability.” Calvert had said.

That should sound like music to our ears.