Neeraj Chopra is currently training in Sweden, and will soon join the Indian contingent at Tokyo Olympics.
Neeraj Chopra is currently training in Sweden, and will soon join the Indian contingent at Tokyo Olympics.

Khel Ratna nomination inspires me to do better: Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra, 23, from Haryana, is one of India’s top medal prospects at Tokyo Olympics. Presently prepping in Sweden, he talks to us about the elbow injury that threatened a set back to his career, hope to perform better to be worth the Khel Ratna, and his passion for photography.
By Mallika Bhagat, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 17, 2021 07:45 PM IST

The drum roll can be heard as the Indian contingent departs for Tokyo Olympics. And ace Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is preparing in full form, in Sweden, to join fellow athletes in Japan, in a few days. But, amid all the excitement, it’s the news of Chopra’s nomination for Khel Ratna that has made his experience sweeter. “I’m so happy to have been nominated for the Khel Ratna. It’s the biggest award in the world of sports in India, and it’s definitely a remarkable honour. But what makes me a little nervous is that I’ve been nominated thrice in the past and didn’t win. So this nomination only inspires me to give a better performance this time around, to be worth the Khel Ratna. Tabhi main is award ka hakdaar banunga (Only then will I be worthy of this honour),” says the 23-year-old.

One of the star attractions of India’s 26-member athletics squad, Chopra recently bagged a bronze, with an 86.79m throw, at the Kuortane Games in Finland. “After the Asian Games and Continental Cup competitions in 2018, these events (Karlstad Grand Prix in Sweden, City of Lisbon athletics meet in Portugal, and the Kuortane Games) have been the first world class competitions where I played with international athletes and got a chance to brush up my skills ahead of the Tokyo Games. And I’m satisfied with my performance,” adds the track and field athlete from Panipat, Haryana.

Owing to an elbow injury in 2019, there were doubts on Chopra’s ability to compete in the Olympics. But the pandemic allowed him to recuperate, and resurge in full form! “Thoda darr toh laga tha, because elbow joint main hota hai javelin throw mein (I was a bit scared because the elbow joint is pivotal in javelin throw),” he confesses, adding, “I was scared of missing out on the most important games of my life! But remained patient, spent time in the rehab after surgery, and thankfully it all worked out well.”

When not on the field, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra says he loves to listen to music and watch movies. (Photo: Raj K Raj/HT)
When not on the field, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra says he loves to listen to music and watch movies. (Photo: Raj K Raj/HT)

But when Chopra isn’t striding with his javelin, he loves to listen to music and catch up on the latest movies. And what he’s most keen on lately is the camera. “I always liked to click pictures! Now I’ve bought a new camera, and I’m on the lookout for nice views that I can capture through my lens,” he says, sharing how his time off from the training makes him lose himself in thoughts of his family. “During the training, there is no time to even think. But whenever I sit down to relax or eat, I miss my family and the comfort of my home. We speak on the phone but it isn’t like being with them in person. My uncle, Surinder, who has been very supportive of me, is one who I miss a lot,” he adds.

Mention how he’s riding high on everyone’s expectations with him getting a podium finish in Tokyo, yet he states, “There is no pressure! But I would definitely like to say that all athletes try and perform to the best of their abilities. When athletes perform well, they are remembered. But many are forgotten if they don’t stand out. So I just hope that people continue to support us, baki humare andar jitna dum hai hum pura lagayenge (we’ll perform in full force)!”

Author tweets @bhagat_mallika

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