India at Tokyo Olympics- Athletics LIVE: 5 roadblocks Neeraj Chopra will have to overcome for Olympic glory – Neeraj Chopra will carry India’s hopes in the track and field events, as he lines up for his maiden Olympics campaign in Tokyo. Chopra will participate in the qualification round of the men’s javelin throw on Wednesday and will be aiming to make the finals as one of the prime contenders for a podium spot. While the 23-year-old carries the burden of expectations, the task at hand is not straightforward, and here we look at five obstacles that Neeraj Chopra has to overcome to clinch Olympic glory.
1. Olympics debut
Even the finest athletes across the globe have shiver down their spine when it comes to the Olympics, and Neeraj Chopra will have to win over his nerves if he has to return home with a medal. The 23-year-old has competed in a host of international tournaments previously, including the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, but the Olympics is a different ball game altogether with Mirabai Chanu’s 2016 Rio Olympics a prime example of the pressure of getting things right on Summer Games debut.
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2. Lack of match practice after rehabilitation
Neeraj Chopra’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics were hit with a major blow after he suffered an injury to the elbow of his throwing arm, undergoing surgery. Since undergoing rehabilitation, He participated in just three international events before the Olympics, with only one of those featuring top-class international rivals. The lack of practice could eventually hurt his chances when it matters the most, and the 23-year-old will be mindful of avoiding the scenario.
3. Jonas Vetter and competitors
Neeraj Chopra doesn’t have a free run at the podium and will have a list of competitors he will have to surpass if he has to clinch a medal for India. While the likes of defending champion Thomas Rohler, world silver medallist Magnus Kirt, and Andreas Hoffman, the second-best thrower of 2020 have opted out, the 23-year-old still has some world-class competitors who will fight for the podium.
- 2017 World Champion Johannes Vetter (personal-best 97.76m, season-best 96.29m)
- Poland’s Marcin Krukowski (PB & SB 89.55m)
- 2012 Olympics champion and 2016 Rio Games bronze medallist Trinidad & Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott (PB 90.16m, SB 89.12m)
- Latvia’s 2014 under-20 World champion Gatis Cakss (PB & SB 87.57m).
- Among the 32 in the fray (Group A and B) combined, Neeraj Chopra’s Personal Best throw of 88.07m is the 12th best.
4. India’s dismal track and field record and the weight of expectations
Neerja Chopra is the latest in line of carrying hopes of the Indian contingent in the track and field events, with the country yet to win a medal in athletics since Norman Pritchard won two silver medals in athletics at the 1900 Paris Olympics. Since then the likes of Milkha Singh (finished 4th in 400m at 1960 Olympics), P.T. Usha (4th in 400m hurdles at 1984 Olympics), Anju Bobby George (5th in long jump at 2004 Olympics) and G.S. Randhawa (5th in 110m hurdles at 1964 Olympics) have come close, but haven’t finished on the podium.
5. Adaptability to the “new” javelin
After returning from injury, Neeraj Chopra made a huge call to switch his javelin, picking Nordic over his highly successful Nemeth. The move worked and Chopra broke the national record and it gives him a much better shot when there are strong winds. However, the Nordic requires much more technique to maximise the returns than a Nemeth, and Chopra had a few sub-par throws before he found the sweet spot and broke the national record. The 23-year-old will be participating in his first big event with his new weapon and will hope that his lack of match experience doesn’t hurt his chances.