The golden boy Neeraj Chopra had first come to the limelight 2016 when he became the Junior World Champion and also set the U-20 record with his throw of 86.48 m.
In this exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, the Panipat-born javelin thrower shares various anecdotes from his journey, his future plans and much more.
When asked about how he started his journey, Neeraj shares:
I used to go to the school ground and do my routine fitness training and was fascinated one day when I saw some seniors practicing the javelin throw. When I tried my hand at it, I instantly took a liking to it. One of my seniors -- Jaiveer -- asked me to start training with him. I consider him as a brother as he is the one who spotted the potential in me and motivated me to pursue the sport seriously. He believed in me and helped me get the necessary training in the initial phase so I will always remain indebted to him for his help. However, becoming the World Junior champion and setting the national record was a life-changing moment for me.
The poster boy of Athletics added another feather to his cap when he won the gold medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta. He even finished at a commendable 4th spot in the prestigious diamond league, missing the Bronze medal by a whisker.
However, it is not all a fairytale run for the Haryana athlete. One area of concern which Neeraj will look to address immediately is his technique. Neeraj was one of the top medal contenders at the recently concluded IAAF Continental Cup but ended up finishing 6th as a foul throw -- out of the sector -- saw him making an early exit.
"I am sad that I missed out on a medal in such a big event but this is also a blessing in disguise for me. I know exactly where I am going wrong and my throws are landing up a bit too much to the left. Now that I have the time, I am keen to get back to training with Uwe Hohn in the the national camp in Patiala to take the corrective action. I will give my 100 percent and try to ensure I do not repeat the same mistake before the next mega event -- the World Championships -- next year.".
All athletes learn from their mistakes. However, in any sport, temperament matters a lot and the Neeraj Chopra certainly has a good one. He is aware that your performance on any given day is what matters and it can go both ways. Nonetheless, Neeraj is ready to take all the ups and downs in his stride, with an omnipresent smile.
Neeraj is looking to take some time off to de-stress.
Before I head to the national camp, I will spend some time with family and friends back home in Patiala. It has been more that 11 months since I got to do that.
It was great to see the humble side of Neeraj. While most in his place would be basking in the glory of the Gold won at Asian Games, the 20-year-old has immense focus and the only thing on his mind is further improvement in the discipline.
His dedication towards the sport is such that hours after winning the Asiad gold, Neeraj flew to Zurich in order to take part in the Diamond League finals.
This is what makes him a true champion and there is no doubt that he will bring much more glory to the nation in the coming years. An extremely positive takeaway is that Neeraj has been consistent. One never knows when he can come up with a personal best.
When asked if he feels any pressure from the expectations of him becoming the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in athletics, he replies:
"There is no pressure as I believe in the hard work which I do. My goal is just to remain focussed on my training. It is nice when people have expectations from you and it feels even better when you live up to them."
Neeraj has plans to continue to go for training sessions abroad as the competition is intense and he can learn from World Class athletes.
Initially, I will be taking some rest to recover as 2018 has been really hectic and then I will sit down with my coach to construct a plan on the World Championships that are supposed to happen next year. It is a big event after which I plan to give it my all for the Olympics. The coach is aware of my body, and I have faith in him to make the necessary tweaks in my technique.
India's golden boy became the first Indian to clinch the gold medal at Asiad ever and also feels that the 90 m mark is well within his reach. The last medal which came in the sport was Gurtej Singh's Bronze medal in 1982.
"I would like to thank all the Indians who have backed me and even all the other athletes at the Asian Games and I hope that they continue showing the same level of support. The support I get spurs me to push harder and I feel the 90 m mark is within reach."
Besides Neeraj, there are other promising prospects coming up in Javelin and with time, better infrastructure, and equipment, India can become the next powerhouse in the sport like Germany.
On his association with global sports drink brand, Gatorade, Neeraj shares:
I feel priveleged to be associated with a brand like Gatorade, which has global icons like Messi, Usain Bolt, and Serena Williams associated with it. Gatorade is one thing I never forget to carry with myself in my training bag as it helps in keeping one hydrated and full of energy. Gatorade, packed with its electrolytes and essential vitamins, gives an immediate boost of energy, thereby helping in recovery while training.
Neeraj was also overwhelmed with the overall growth of athletics in the country and immensely proud of the performances of his fellow brothers and sisters at the Asian Games:
"Athletics contributed for the maximum number of medals in India's overall tally. Hima Das, Swapna Barman, Arpinder Singh and many others were just exceptional and there are chances that we re-write our history at the upcoming Olympics as there are so many bright prospects to look forward to," Neeraj signed off.