Neeraj Chopra Faces Pressure to Defend Olympic Javelin Title in Paris

Neeraj Chopra Faces Pressure to Defend Olympic Javelin Title in Paris

Defending an Olympic title is a daunting task, as Neeraj Chopra will discover when he steps onto the runway in Paris with the weight of expectations on his shoulders. The Indian javelin thrower, who won gold in Tokyo in 2021, will be aiming to become only the second man in history to successfully defend an Olympic javelin title.

Michael Johnson, the legendary American sprinter who won four Olympic gold medals and eight world championships, knows what it takes to defend an Olympic title. He successfully defended his 400m title in Sydney in 2000, despite battling injuries in the lead-up to the Games.

“It is very difficult when you are the defending champion,” Johnson said. “It comes with its own pressure. Sometimes when an athlete is not expected to win, it’s easier to do than when they are expected to win.”

Chopra will be carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulders in Paris. But Johnson believes that the Indian star has the mental strength to handle the pressure.

“He has the whole of India wanting him to win,” Johnson said. “Not all athletes have done it. I was able to do it and it can be done. It comes with an advantage that you know that you can win. You have done it before. You also carry the champion’s confidence.”

Chopra has been in impressive form since his Olympic triumph. He is the reigning world champion and has consistently medalled in major meets. Johnson believes that Chopra is capable of great things in Paris.

“He is flying high,” Johnson said. “Going by his performances in the last two years, he has been spurred by his sensational Tokyo Olympics gold.”

Johnson also stressed the importance of managing expectations.

“Expectations will always weigh on you,” he said. “It’s just about how you manage it. You have your own expectations, fans have expectations, and the whole country has its expectations. Trying to pretend that it’s not there and doesn’t exist is a mistake. The key is to manage those expectations, especially in the moment when you are preparing to focus on only the things you can control.”

Johnson is looking forward to some good performances in the Paris Olympics, especially with the energy of the fans coming back after the Covid-restricted Tokyo Games.

“Lot of athletes told me that they missed the energy of the fans in the stadium,” he said. “The thing about the Olympics is that all events are thrilling because the stakes are high. These are your best athletes at their best. They have all trained for this moment. Everybody wants to be the champion but only one will get the gold medal. So, there will be last minute drama. You are going to have athletes trying to show up in Paris not believing they can win gold and they can leave Paris with a gold medal. It’s an amazing story when that happens.”

Neeraj Chopra Targets Olympic Gold, Focuses on Pre-Season Strength Training

Neeraj Chopra Targets Olympic Gold, Focuses on Pre-Season Strength Training

Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra is in the final stages of his pre-season training in Antalya, Turkey, with his sights set on repeating his triumph at the season-opening Doha Diamond League on May 10. Chopra emerged victorious in the Qatari capital in 2023 with a throw of 88.67m, but this year, his focus extends beyond the Diamond League to the ultimate goal of retaining his Olympic crown.

“Defending my Olympic gold is my primary objective this season, but there’s still time for that,” Chopra stated. “Before then, I’ll participate in 3-4 events, aiming to perform well in each. That will prepare me mentally and physically for Paris.”

Since his last competitive appearance at the Hangzhou Asian Games, where he secured the gold medal, Chopra has undergone a six-month off-season. He trained in Potchefstroom, South Africa, before relocating to Gloria Sports Arena in Turkey, where he has primarily focused on enhancing his strength.

Chopra’s two-member team, comprising biomechanics expert Klaus Bartonietz and physiotherapist Ishaan Marwah, has expanded with the addition of strength and conditioning expert Spencer Mackay. Mackay previously worked with Chopra during his rehabilitation following elbow surgery in 2019. Recognizing the need to elevate his performance in the Olympic year, Chopra has once again sought Mackay’s expertise.

“I’ve been working on my strength and conditioning for the past 2-3 months,” Chopra explained. “My technique has improved significantly in clean and jerk and snatches. I’ve also commenced javelin-specific workouts. I’m eager to start the season.”

While the Olympics remain the ultimate prize, Chopra is not underestimating the importance of his tune-up events. He attributes this shift in mindset to his success in Tokyo.

“Before Tokyo, I was content with simply competing,” Chopra said. “I would finish fourth or fifth and be satisfied. But after Tokyo, I have this burning desire to excel everywhere. I want to finish on the podium as often as possible.”

Chopra’s consistency since his Tokyo triumph is a testament to his unwavering dedication to training. “I was never satisfied after Tokyo, but consistent results demand consistent training,” he said. “I relish pushing myself in training, and now is the time to break out of the 87-89m bracket and achieve consistent throws at a higher level.”

The reigning world champion also acknowledged the exceptional talent of his compatriot Kishore Jena, who he believes has the potential to surpass the 90m mark before him. He also praised Germany’s 19-year-old sensation Max Dehning, the latest entrant in the 90m club.

Neeraj Chopra Aims to Break 90m Barrier Before Paris Olympics

Neeraj Chopra Aims to Break 90m Barrier Before Paris Olympics

Olympic gold medalist Neeraj Chopra is setting his sights on breaking the 90-meter barrier in javelin throw before the 2024 Paris Olympics. The Indian star, who won gold in Tokyo in 2020, believes he is on track to achieve this milestone soon.

Chopra’s best competitive throw stands at 89.94m, achieved at the 2022 Stockholm Diamond League. While he has surpassed 90m in training, he is yet to replicate it in competition. However, he is confident that it will happen before Paris.

“I will try to breach the 90m mark before that (Paris Olympics). Hopefully, it happens before Paris, everything is going on smoothly, so (people) might not have to wait till the Olympics, it might happen before that. The preparation is good,” Chopra said.

Chopra’s confidence stems from a successful off-season focused on fitness and strength, as well as the success he has achieved since winning gold in Tokyo. He has won the Diamond League trophy, retained his Asian Games gold, and earned a silver and gold at the World Championships.

“After Tokyo, the self-confidence has definitely gone up. Besides, I have also played quite a few events… two world championships, a silver and a gold there, won the Diamond League trophy, made some good throws, then retained the Asian Games gold (in Hangzhou) as well,” Chopra said.

“So, the success between Tokyo and Paris has given me a lot of confidence that yes I can do it against strong competitors.”

Chopra has also worked on improving his technique since Tokyo. “Before Tokyo, whatever shortcomings I had and during the years leading to Paris, I have worked on them. The best part is everything is going smoothly and I am very positive.”

Chopra will begin his competitive season with the Doha Diamond League Meeting on May 10, followed by the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland on June 18. He will face stiff competition from 19-year-old German sensation Max Dehning, who recently threw 90.20m.

“They (two tournaments) are very crucial in the run-up to Olympics, to get that competitive feel back (after the off-season). I will also decide in consultation with my coach and team which competitions to take part in.”

Chopra is excited about the prospect of competing against Dehning. “When I competed in Tokyo and elsewhere, most of my competitors came in boasting of 90-plus throws. So, it’s not such a big deal. What matters is what you do on that particular day.”

“I am excited to compete against Dahlin. But it depends on the kind of pressure they (competitors) are able to handle. That is the biggest challenge. I’m sure I will play a lot of matches with Max (Dahlin). Never played with him before. It will be interesting, I will enjoy.”

Chopra also praised fellow Indian javelin thrower Kishore Jena, who won silver at the Asian Games. “The way he has progressed in the world championships and the Asian Games, who knows Kishore might breach the 90m mark before me. 90m mark atka hua hai, but kabhi na kabhi ho jayega (That 90m-mark has not come thus far, but some day it will happen).”

Anju Bobby George Questions IOA's Flag Bearer Decision for Paris Olympics

Anju Bobby George Questions IOA’s Flag Bearer Decision for Paris Olympics

Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) decision to appoint Sharath Kamal as the flag bearer for the 2024 Paris Olympics has sparked controversy, with legendary athlete Anju Bobby George questioning the omission of Neeraj Chopra.

George, a Commonwealth and Asian Games medalist, took to Instagram to express her surprise at the decision, stating that Chopra, the reigning Olympic champion in javelin throw, should have been considered. She questioned the IOA’s rationale, especially since the federations, including table tennis, have yet to announce their Olympic teams.

Sharath Kamal, a 10-time national table tennis champion, has an impressive record, including 13 Commonwealth Games medals and two Asian Games medals. However, Chopra’s Olympic gold medal and world ranking of 88 make him a more deserving candidate for the honor, according to George.

The IOA has also appointed Olympic bronze medalist MC Mary Kom as the chef de mission for the Paris Games. Kom, a six-time world champion and five-time Asian champion, is the first female boxer to win an Olympic medal for India.

Gagan Narang, a bronze medalist in the 10m air rifle event at the 2012 London Olympics, has been appointed to head the shooting village operations for the Paris Olympics. Shooting has not produced an Indian medalist since London 2012, despite earning India its first individual Olympic medal in Beijing 2008.

The Olympic Games will take place from July 26 to August 11, 2024. The Indian contingent will be led by a distinguished team of officials, including Sharath Kamal, MC Mary Kom, and Gagan Narang.

Neeraj Chopra to Begin Season at Doha Diamond League

Neeraj Chopra to Begin Season at Doha Diamond League

Reigning Olympic and world champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is set to kick off his season at the prestigious Diamond League series in Doha on May 10. The 26-year-old Indian, who won gold at the Asian Games in Hangzhou last year, is aiming to defend his Olympic title in Paris later this year.

Chopra will face a star-studded field in Doha, including his well-known rivals Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic and Anderson Peters of Grenada. Vadlejch won silver in the Tokyo Olympics and bronze in the 2023 World Championships, while Peters is a former world champion and holds the fifth-longest throw in history (93.07m).

Chopra’s compatriot Kishore Jena, who finished fifth in the 2023 Budapest World Championships and won silver in Hangzhou with a personal best of 87.54m, will also make his Diamond League debut in Doha.

Chopra is eager to start his season strongly and is targeting a throw of over 90m. “This year, my personal goal is to defend my Olympic title, but it would also mean a lot to me to break the 90m barrier,” he said. “The Doha Meeting, with good conditions and a great atmosphere, is a perfect opportunity to get my season off to the best start.”

The javelin event has become increasingly competitive in recent years, with several athletes capable of throwing over 90m. Chopra’s continued excellence has raised the bar for Indian athletes, and he is confident that India is making progress as a nation in the sport.

“Last year my dream was to win the World Championships, but to have three Indian athletes competing in the final – that shows we’re progressing as a nation,” he said.

The Doha Meeting is the third meeting of the 2024 Diamond League series, which comprises 15 legs in total across four different continents. The first two meetings in Xiamen and Shanghai do not have men’s javelin throw as a Diamond League event.

Javelin Star Kishore Kumar Jena Eyes Multiple Medals for India at Paris Olympics

Javelin Star Kishore Kumar Jena Eyes Multiple Medals for India at Paris Olympics

Rising javelin star Kishore Kumar Jena is poised to make a mark at the upcoming Paris Olympics, following his impressive performance at the Asian Games and his recent training regimen.

Jena, who hails from a farming family in Odisha, has been making waves in the javelin throw since his toe-to-toe battle with Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra at the world athletics meet in Budapest last year. At the Asian Games in Hangzhou, Jena and Chopra made history by securing a javelin one-two finish.

With the Paris Olympics just over 130 days away, Jena is confident that India can win multiple javelin medals. “As per rule, three players can compete from one country in javelin throw. That increases the probability of winning more medals in Paris,” he said.

Jena’s training at the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports (NSNIS) in Patiala has been instrumental in his progress. He has been working on improving his core and shoulder strength through various weight training exercises.

Jena’s season has started on a positive note, and he is optimistic about his performance in 2024. “I believe 2024 will be a great season for me. Practice is going well, and I am getting support from every quarter,” he said.

Jena’s target for the Doha leg of the Diamond League season in May is to continue improving his results and overcome his weaknesses. He values the guidance and support of Chopra, who he considers a mentor rather than a competitor.

During the Hangzhou Asian Games, Jena’s personal best throw of 87.54m pushed Chopra to give his all, resulting in a monster throw of 88.88m and a gold medal for the Olympic champion. Jena’s silver medal and qualification for Paris 2024 were significant achievements.

“At that time, I was happy that I had qualified for Paris 2024. I went up to him (Chopra) and even told him that I have qualified. He boosted my confidence saying I can post a bigger throw,” Jena recalled.

Jena’s aim at his maiden Olympics is to achieve his personal best. “Like everyone, my aim is to win a medal, but that is not entirely under my control,” he said.

Neeraj Chopra Confident of Strong Return to Outdoor Competition

Neeraj Chopra Confident of Strong Return to Outdoor Competition

Neeraj Chopra, India’s Olympic gold medalist in javelin throw, is gearing up for his return to outdoor competition in 2024. The 26-year-old is currently training in Turkey and is confident of being in top form for the upcoming season.

Chopra’s preparation for the Tokyo Olympics was hampered by injuries, but he has since bounced back strongly. He won a silver medal at the 2022 World Championships and set a new personal best of 89.94 meters at the Stockholm Diamond League meet.

“I want to be in the best possible shape before Paris,” Chopra said. “My training sessions have gone off really well so far. I always lay stress on fitness along with strength and technique.”

Chopra is not setting any specific targets for the upcoming season, but he is confident of continuing his good form.

“I have won medals in two World Championships, threw my personal best, won a dream Diamond League title, and even defended my gold at the Asian Games,” he said. “All in all, I have been in great space and want to carry forward that momentum from May onwards.”

Chopra is aware of the increasing competition in javelin throw, but he is not fazed by it.

“What matters to me is staying 100 percent fit, being consistent during the season, and delivering on the day that matters,” he said. “I think there are mistakes to fix and looking at the increasing competition all around, one has to keep improving.”

Chopra is a role model for young athletes in India and is an inspiration to many. He is a true champion and a credit to his country.

Neeraj Chopra Confident of Peak Performance Ahead of Paris Olympics

Neeraj Chopra Confident of Peak Performance Ahead of Paris Olympics

Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, expressed confidence in his preparations for the upcoming Paris Olympics 2024. Speaking at the RevSportz Trailblazers Conclave 2.0 in Kolkata, Chopra emphasized that he is in peak condition and believes his best performances are yet to come.

“I am training hard and feeling good,” said Chopra. “I feel I am yet to perform to the best of my abilities. I also get a feeling that this is the best prepared I have ever been. It will get better in the days to come.”

Chopra, who is one of India’s top medal prospects for the Paris Games, acknowledged the intense competition he will face. “Competition will be tough. A young German has recently cleared 90m. And I will be defending my title. I enjoy this competition,” he said.

Olympic gold medalist shooter Abhinav Bindra, who also spoke at the conclave, stressed the importance of embracing pressure at the highest level. “There will be pressure. Nobody likes it. The point is, you have to accept it. An athlete has to learn to coexist with pressure and find out a way to work with it. That can come only with acceptance and adaptability.”

Cricket icon Sourav Ganguly emphasized the value of consistent effort and preparation. “It is like a board exam, for which you do not prepare for three days but for an entire year. It becomes part of your system. You are well prepared, then there is no panic. And this is no rocket science. You have to keep doing the same thing every day. Also, one has to switch off at times.”

Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president Adille Sumariwalla highlighted the importance of creating a supportive environment for athletes. “An athlete must feel secure that his requirements are taken care of so that he or she can concentrate on what they are doing. We give them that and expect them to do their best. It may or may not result in a medal. We have to work on creating bench strength as well,” he said.

Chopra’s confidence and the support of his fellow athletes and administrators bode well for India’s medal hopes at the Paris Olympics. The javelin thrower’s determination to push himself further and his belief in his abilities suggest that he is poised to deliver another stellar performance on the world stage.

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