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“Defending Olympics gold medal could be tough,” says Neeraj Chopra

“Defending Olympics gold medal could be tough,” says Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra has been in sizzling form in season 2023, winning almost everything on offer, but the star athlete has no qualms in admitting that defending his gold medal at Paris Olympics will be a huge challenge since maintaining top form on a consistent basis is not easy. Chopra said it is not wise to […]

Neeraj Chopra has been in sizzling form in season 2023, winning almost everything on offer, but the star athlete has no qualms in admitting that defending his gold medal at Paris Olympics will be a huge challenge since maintaining top form on a consistent basis is not easy. Chopra said it is not wise to write off two-time world champion (2019 and 2022) Anderson Peters of Grenada, who has endured a miserable season as he struggled to touch even 80m mark.

Peters was one of the medal favourites, going into Tokyo Olympics but he could not even qualify for the finals. “Defending my Olympic gold medal could be tough because there is pressure and expectations from the people. Maintaining top form for many years is challenging but my endeavour will be to prepare in the best possible way and give my best in Paris,” Chopra told PTI in an interview.

“Peters was not in good form but we can’t say anything for next year. One year is a long time and everybody will try to be in best of fitness and form. I was injured in 2019 and could not play the whole year. “Every player faces injuries and downward turn in performance. Competition will be tough in Paris Olympics and also in other competitions.” The 25-year-old Chopra was on Thursday inducted as the new and first non-cricket Laureus Goodwill Ambassador. He was joined by former India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh who has been Laureus Goodwill Ambassador since 2017.

Also Read: Recovering from knee inflammation, Saina Nehwal hopeful of Paris Olympic qualification

Chopra defended his Asian Games gold medal in Hangzhou earlier this month with a season’s best throw of 88.88m, which was his fourth career-best effort. He emerged winner in an enticing battle with compatriot Kishore Jena who won the silver medal. Asked if he can visualise two Indians standing on the podium in Paris, he said, “It is difficult to say, it will not be easy. But if we (him and Jena) keep on doing well and give our best, if not next year, it can happen in future competitions.” Chopra said athletes looking for quick results must realise that there are no shortcuts to success and resorting to certain practices will only close the road for them.

Insidesport

While he did not say it in as many words, Chopra’s message could be for dope offenders. “Give your 100 per cent in whatever field you are. If I speak on sports, the thing I can see currently as a little bit of a problem is lack of patience in our athletes. “Some of them want quick results and because of that they do certain training or take diets that closes their road ahead.

Many sportspersons in the country, including some of those who won medals in the Hangzhou Asian Games, are from humble families and Chopra said he can relate to them since he is also a farmer’s son from Khandra village near Panipat.

“I am a village boy and I know the challenges faced by athletes from humble background. Now that I have reached a certain position, I want to do something for my people and give back to the society. “So through Laureus as well as Neeraj Chopra Foundation, I will try to do something for my people.” The Neeraj Chopra Foundation was registered in May this year with its office in Panipat.

Chopra, who carried a groin strain for most part of this season, saved his best for the last as he grabbed the gold medal in Hangzhou to be a part of the history-making Indian contingent that clinched a record medal haul of 107.

“There was still the groin strain but after playing in the Eugene Diamond League Finals, I was feeling very well in my throw sessions. I was throwing well in the sessions before Asian Games. I think, tiredness of travel and competition was no longer there and so I was able to throw my season’s best.

“The first throw was very good but it was not measured (by officials) and there were some problem. Because of that my mind was not in good frame, but the way I could produce 88.88m in those kind of circumstances and mindset was really satisfying.

“I also feel very happy the way Kishore Jena (who took silver with a personal best 87.54m) was playing and doing his personal best. Both of us finishing 1-2 was simply great.” Chopra hailed Yuvraj, one of the architects of India’s 2011 World Cup win, for his will power and dedication to excel even after suffering from a malignant tumour.

“The dedication and willpower Yuvraj showed as a player to play for the country even when he vomited blood is a huge message that you can do things despite facing difficult circumstances. “Fighting for life and still has the passion to play for the country, it’s message that there nothing bigger than representing the country,” Chopra said.

In 2011, Yuvraj was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called mediastinal seminoma, which affects the tissues in the chest between the lungs. Yuvraj underwent chemotherapy in US and made a successful recovery. He returned to cricket in 2012. “He (Chopra) has inspired a new generation of Indian athletes. When he won the Olympics gold, there was earthquake in the country, with people asking who is this lad who made impossible things possible.

“I can relate my story with Neeraj. I played for India even when I was unwell and did things which people don’t understand.” On Chopra refusing to consider himself as the greatest-ever Indian track and field athlete, Yuvraj said, “For a great athlete, there is no need to say that he is great. When we play we say let the bat talks. Neeraj’s javelin talks.

“The coming generation should learn from the greatness he has achieved. He has struggled, he has worked for many years. I am hoping that he will win many more medals and India will become number one in track and field.” On whether Shubman Gill, who is recovering from dengue fever, can play in the marquee World Cup match against arch-rivals Pakistan on Saturday, Yuvraj said, “I have told him ‘stand up and play’. I played with dengue and viral fever. He would really want to play (against Pakistan).

“When you are playing for your country, you have to put your body on the line.” Talking about the India-Pakistan match, he said, “Pressure will be there, it is big match and the world would be watching. It will be a cracker of a match and may the best team win. Hopefully, India wins,” Yuvraj signed off.

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