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Updated on: Thursday, December 30, 2021, 05:25 PM IST

After a bustling 2021, Neeraj Chopra enjoying the mundane life training in California

‘Lost 5.5kgs of the 13kgs I put on after Olympics’, says Neeraj Chopra as he sets his sights on constantly breaching the 90m mark
Neeraj Chopra | Photo: PTI

Neeraj Chopra | Photo: PTI

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While Neeraj Chopra basked in the glory of that javelin throw of 87.58m which won him gold at the Tokyo Olympics, attending felicitations, fulfilling commitments and shooting for TV advertisements, he didn’t hold back on the food.

“I trained so hard for the Olympics, that when I got back, I had no restrictions on eating, even on sweets,” Neeraj told a group of select media via video conferencing from his training base in California.

Neeraj, who turned 24 last Friday, said he enjoyed himself so much after that Olympic gold that he gained 12-13 kgs in that time, which is kind of sacrilege if you are a top track-and-field athlete.

And while he was still getting used to his newfound super-stardom, he missed one part that made him the happiest – training.

Mentally too, dealing with the brouhaha was punishing, he said.

“The most difficult time was when training wasn't happening,” he said.

2022 is going to be a busy year for Indian athletes. There’s the World Championships, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games as well as the Diamond League.

And if you are Neeraj Chopra then the pressure is perhaps amplified. So the lad from Khandra, Haryana knew he had to do something. He also knew he couldn’t do it in India.

“The shaadi season is on,” Neeraj said with a cheeky laugh. “You get a lot of invites from family and friends. Besides, Patiala is really cold these days,” he said.

Neeraj, with his team comprising coach Klaus Bartonietz and physio Ishaan Marwaha, began training at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Centre in California earlier this month.

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His first task was to lose those extra kilos.

In the 22 days that he has begun training Neeraj said he has already lost about 5.5kgs. But it’s been a difficult process.

“The initial few days of training were hard, my body would hurt and the workouts felt very difficult. I had to put in a lot of effort. I was always physically tired but I pushed through despite being exhausted. Now slowly everything is coming back on track. I have reduced 5-6 kg again,” he said.

More importantly, Neeraj said, he’s really enjoying his time in California where his focus is only on training.

“My life here is very simple. I have my breakfast by 7:30 am and then head to the centre by 9.30 where I train for over two hours. We eat our lunch there and then we return to our apartment to rest and recover. We head to training again by 4 in the evening. We finish training and return after dinner. After that, it is a normal day where I call up family or friends and rest,” he said, explaining his daily schedule.

While he’s sure he’s going to overcome the first obstacle of reaching prime fitness, Neeraj, whose personal best is 88.07m, said his focus right now is to breach the 90m mark and then regularly throw that distance. Only then it would put him in the list of the world’s best throwers, he said.

“I am close to it (90m mark) and can hit it soon, but I don't think about it too much. There is no pressure on me,” he said.

“The gap is about 2m. Not that it’s too less, but I don’t think it's impossible because my training has been good.”

When asked if he’s had to bring any change in his technique in order to breach the 90m mark, Neeraj said no big change, only slight tweaks.

“I’ll need to improve what I am already doing. I'll also look to work on explosive strength, core strength and speed as these factors will add up and the distance will be covered,” he said.

His gold has made him the poster boy of Indian athletics and Neeraj wants to use his fame to bolster sport in the country.

When asked what changes he would like to see, Neeraj said he wanted more upcoming athletes participating in international tournaments.

“I think elite level athletes should get more competitions and especially international competitions. Right now, only the best athletes get them. Once upcoming athletes get the experience of playing among the best athletes, they can think at that level and will get motivated.”

And to promote his sport, Neeraj said the only way out is by providing equipment for kids to use.

“For kids who are coming in now, facilities should be increased in normal grounds. Javelins should be provided because it's expensive. There should also be coaches who can guide these youngsters. This will change a lot of things in the future,” he said.

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Published on: Thursday, December 30, 2021, 05:14 PM IST
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