The world just got tougher for Neeraj Chopra

Garry Calvert, who coached Neeraj Chopra to the under-20 Worlds gold in 2016, feels that the road ahead would be very hard.

Neeraj Chopra won a gold medal in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.   -  Getty Images

He may have broken the national record at the Diamond League season-opener in Doha on Friday night but the world has just got tougher for javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra.

Doha had a world class field and for the first time since 1986, when rules were tweaked and the javelin’s centre of gravity was moved forward by four centimetres to make it safer for spectators, three men went over 90m.

Germans Thomas Rohler (91.78m), Johannes Vetter (91.56) and Andreas Hofmann (90.08) took the medals in Doha with the Commonwealth Games champion Chopra breaking his own national record by nearly a metre with an 87.43m (old record 86.48m) throw that saw him finish a creditable fourth.

Read: Neeraj rewrites national record, finishes fourth

Australian Garry Calvert, who coached Chopra to the under-20 Worlds gold in 2016, feels that the road ahead would be very hard.

“Neeraj is in their class. But making the finals at major meets now becomes tougher as he found out at the World Championships last year,” said Calvert, now the China coach, in a chat with Sportstar from Beijing on Saturday.

“The field is deep now, there are three Germans with 90-plus, another German Julian Weber close to 89, two Czechs (Jakub Vadlejch and Petr Frydrych) around 89m, Kenyan Julius Yego at 92m, Trinidad’s Keshorn Walcott at 90m and Taipei’s Chao-Tsun Cheng at 91m… that leaves three to four positions for the rest of the world.

“We will probably see four to five throwers going over 92m this season. The Diamond League is tough and javelin is the strongest event in the world right now. It will be hard to hold form all year.”
Calvert feels that World No. 6 Chopra should be handled with care.

“He needs to get a guarantee from the AFI that it will stop these unreasonable demands on him competing in everything at home and minor events like last year’s Asian Championships,” said Calvert.

“Mistakes can be made and ruin careers. The tracks in India are very bad and hard except Bengaluru. You don't want your best athletes competing with high risk of injuries, no matter what the AFI believes about toughening Indian athletes. The AFI should exclude Chopra from the Indian calendar.”

Chatting with Calvert, one got the impression that Chopra should be free to choose his coach.

“I guess he needs to get back to Werner Daniels (who trained him for a few months in Germany) and work on things. He appears to have had little development since the Junior Worlds.”

On AFI’s insistence, Chopra now trains under national javelin coach Uwe Hohn, the former East German whose world record 104.80m in 1984 forced athletics authorities to tinker with the spear as they felt it put spectators’ lives at risk.

It will be interesting to see how Chopra’s graph goes from here.