Tokyo 2020: How Klaus Bartonietz helped Neeraj Chopra rise
The body is a bow, the javelin an arrow. That’s what Klaus Bartonietz, an expert in biomechanics from Germany who is also one of the preeminent authorities on the javelin throw, wanted his ward Neeraj Chopra to understand.
The javelin thrower must develop tremendous suppleness and power in the elastic components of the body - muscles, ligaments and fascia. It’s the ability to build tension here and then release it that gives flight to the spear. Since he began working with Chopra in 2018, taking sole charge of the thrower since last year, Bartonietz’s aim has been to harness Chopra’s innate flexibility to its maximum advantage.
At the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, on the penultimate day of the games, it all came together for Chopra.
“Maybe he was the fastest today, he was very fast,” Bartonietz said about Chopra’s approach. “He would create the energy (through the run) and then you have to block, strong block. The German (Johannes Vetter, the only one in the final who has thrown above 90m this season) was fitter, a great blocker. (But) you need body elasticity to transfer into the javelin, not just body power. Dhanush!”
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Bartonietz has been with Chopra through the most difficult patch the young athlete has faced in his career, an injury to his throwing arm that ruled him out of action for almost a year. Bartonietz and a team of other specialists had to work to build Chopra from the ground up.
For the past one year, Bartonietz and Chopra have been inseparable, first spending the lockdown and then a few months more at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala, before a short competition trip to Europe leading to the Olympics.
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"He is a humble athlete, not making a big noise about himself,” Bartonietz said. “Already a CWG champion, junior world record holder, but very humble. Others make a big noise about themselves, but mentally Neeraj is very strong.”
Bartonietz was also thrilled at how much athleticism Chopra brought to the table.
“He is an overall athlete,” the coach said. “On the track in sprints, jumps, lifting, gymnastic work for flexibility, all of it. His body capacity is great.”
This morning, Bartonietz was afraid that a typhoon building off the coast of Tokyo would make it difficult for the throwers.
“It was raining in the afternoon actually,” Bartonietz said, “but in the evening everything was fine, the temperature, no rain, perfect.”
What did you tell Chopra before he went in for the final?
“Maza karo, enjoy,” Bartonietz said, breaking into laughter at his own broken Hindi.