Elite athletes across the globe use visualisation as a tool to accelerate performance. Picturing yourself at the competition venue and envisioning the performance you want to put in is regarded as a strong method to help athletes manifest what they want to achieve. Visualisation, an essential part of modern-day training, also serves as a reliable dose of confidence.
India’s top javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, touted as one of India’s brightest medal prospects at Tokyo, says he has already had a few rounds of throws at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, where the men’s javelin qualifying begins on August 4. He has been there for a while, mentally at least.
“I keep visualising my throws in Tokyo. I imagine the setting and the area and how I will perform. I do this so that it won’t feel like a new experience when I am actually there and so that I won’t be overwhelmed by the situation,” he said in an online interaction on Sunday. He added that he listens to music and meditates to relax and remain focussed: “I sit alone and put on my headphones to listen to songs. I also meditate and pay attention to my thoughts. I think about my techniques and training and how to put them in action,” he added.
The 23-year-old is a man on a mission - a mission that will culminate in him climbing the podium at the Tokyo Olympics. And he has identified a key factor that needs working to ensure a podium finish - fine-tuning his release technique.
“My current focus is on ensuring that I do not throw the javelin too high. I had done this at the 2018 Asian Games [where he won gold]. The problem was that the javelin used to veer to the left and would swerve out of the sector and reduce my throw’s distance. I am now working on getting my release angle right and ensuring I get the proper height,” he said.
“My coach says that all the power I put into my throw will be wasted if I do not release the javelin at the right angle. If I can get the angle right then I can get a good distance in Tokyo,” he added.
Neeraj has had a frantic few months. The coronavirus pandemic meant he was restricted to training at the SAI centre in Patiala and could not travel abroad for competitions. He managed to get a visa to travel abroad only in June, a mere 45 days away from the Olympics. He took part in three events before deciding to stick to his training regimen and avoiding competitions to reduce the scope of injury.
“Our plan was to compete in Europe and we prepared accordingly in Patiala. But the spread of COVID-19 and visa challenges affected our training and plans. We had to repeatedly change our plans because we could not participate in the competitions we had targeted. When you prepare for one event and train for that, you need to change things once again when you cannot participate in the event. I got a chance to participate in the events I wanted only at the end,” he said.
Neeraj travelled to Portugal in the first week of June in the City of Lisbon athletics meet and the Karlstad Open in Sweden. His first real test came at the Kuortane Games in Sweden, where he finished third after competing with the likes of Tokyo Olympics gold medal favourite Johannes Vetter and 2012 London Olympics gold-medallist Keshorn Walcott.
“I took part in such a high-level competition after a long time. The 2018 Continental Cup was the last competition I participated in which had such top throwers. The Kourtanne Games was my first proper international competition in two and a half years,” he said.
Interestingly, his best throw of the foreign season came in Finland off a borrowed javelin. “My personal javelins were stuck in Stockholm and did not reach Finland on time. I had borrowed a javelin for the Kuortane Games,” he revealed.
Neeraj will continue to train at Uppsala in Sweden, at a venue that happens to be pole vault medal favourite Armando Duplantis' home ground. He will head to Tokyo on July 26 for his maiden Olympic campaign.
Sizing up his competition, he said: “Vetter is doing well, Walcott also threw 89m in Finland. Poland’s Marcin Krukowski also recently threw 89.55m. The throwers are consistent and the competition is strong. I feel a lot will depend on the day of the event because it's not necessary that everyone will perform well. They have also done well in events and then subsequently had poor throws. Someday the body feels good and performs well and on another, it may not. It will all come down to the day of the event,” he said.
He added, “I am feeling good mentally and my training and preparation is going well. I will give my best in Tokyo to win a medal for the country.”
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