Ace India javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra feels the pressure of being the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games gold medallist is unlikely to affect his performance at the World Championships in Oregon, the USA from July 15.
Continuing his superb form, Chopra broke the national record again with a throw of 89.94m to finish second in the Stockholm Diamond League 2022 in Sweden on Thursday. The Indian javelin ace fell just six centimeters short of the elusive 90m mark but he bettered his personal best of 89.30m, set earlier this month at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland.
World champion Anderson Peters of Grenada broke the 16-year-old meet record with a huge 90.31m throw in his third attempt, which was enough to get him the top spot.
Chopra said he will play with a “free mind” and “perform to potential” in Oregon, where he could bring India only its second medal ever from the World Championships. Only former India long jumper Anju Bobby George has won a medal at the Worlds, clinching bronze in Paris in 2003.
“Well, I don’t know (whether there will be the pressure of being an Olympic medallist or not). I think I’ll come to know about it on the day of the competition in Oregon. Every competition, every day is different. When I start competing, I will know whether I am feeling the pressure of being the Olympic champion,” Chopra told JSW Sports.
“Having said that, I think nothing of that sort should happen because I play with a free mind and perform to my potential. There is no pressure whatsoever. I train well and give my 100 percent in competition,” the 24-year-old Chopra added.
Chopra also said that when Anderson Peters of Grenada breached the 90-meter mark with his giant third attempt on Thursday, he also tried to give it his best shot, but to hurl the javelin that far, everything has to be perfect.
“When Anderson Peters crossed 90m, I also felt that I have to breach that (mark). But for that to happen everything has to be perfect. The javelin has to go in a straight line and the technique to has to be perfect. When everything is perfect only then the throw goes that far.
“We put in a lot of effort in each throw, so the body also tires. Having said that, I am happy with the competition and the fact that all my throws were good. Playing in the Diamond League after a long time (2018), I gave a good performance which has prepared me for the next two completions (Worlds and Birmingham Commonwealth Games).”
Chopra is also happy with the growing popularity of athletics in India and added that it was heartening to see so many Indians turning up to see him compete in Stockholm.
“Feeling very happy and proud that people are watching athletics online in India. Many Indians had come to Stockholm to watch me. The Indian ambassador too came to meet me, so it felt really nice that athletics is getting so much popularity in the country. People are getting to know about the sport,” added Chopra.