Sun, 03 Dec 2023

Hangzhou [China], September 30 (ANI): Indian world champion and Olympic medalist javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra acknowledged that while there will be some focus on arch-rival Pakistan's Arshad Nadeem as well during the men's javelin throw final, his main focus is on competing with himself and getting better at his technique and throw in the title event.

Neeraj, who had recently won India's first-ever World Athletics Championships gold, will kickstart his Asian Games campaign in Hangzhou on October 4 with men's javelin throw final. Arshad will be a rival to watch out for during the final.

"Whenever Arshad has played with me, I have won. But the focus is always on giving my best, not on who is playing against me. In athletics, you compete with yourself and push yourself to do your best. Yes there is some focus on India and Pakistan at the Asian Games as there are no European athletes, but my fight is against myself, I have to better my technique and throw. Rest, we will see," said Neeraj to the media in Hangzhou.

Head to head, both athletes have faced off in nine international events together, seven times at senior level and two times at junior level, as per Olympics.com.

The first meeting of these two athletes was back in the South Asian Games 2016 in Guwahati, where Neeraj got gold and Nadeem took home a bronze. As of now, Neeraj has a 9-0 lead over Nadeem.

Despite Neeraj dominating overall numbers, Arshad is coming closer to the Indian ace's performances since 2018 and could be a big threat to Neeraj's supremacy. Pakistan's Arshad holds a lead over Neeraj in terms of personal best throws, touching the 90.18 mark during CWG 2022, where he won gold. He piped then-world champion, Anderson Peters of Grenada, with this effort. Neeraj had missed the event due to an injury. It was only the second time after Chinese Taipei's Chao-Tsun Cheng 91.26 m throw at the 2017 World Underside, that a South Asian athlete touched the 90-m mark.

However, Neeraj is yet to touch this much-talked-about 90 m mark, with his personal best of 89.94m at the 2022 Stockholm Diamond League in Sweden being a national record as well.

On throwing the 90-m mark, Neeraj said that he is looking forward to it himself, but is in no hurry to do so.

"I am very close to it. I want to hit that throw myself. I believe in the process. Whenever it will happen, it will happen. I am not in a hurry. I am happy with my consistent performances, this is my main focus," said Neeraj.

Neeraj said he likes the fact that he has been so consistent for the last four years and added that he aspires to be consistent not only on-field but in training too.

"It is not about being consistent in throw, but also in training. Keep training well and work on your technique. This leads to improvement. Last year, I made two national records, it was nice. I made improvements. This year I felt good, but injuries proved to be a temporary obstacle. Feels good to be consistent," said Neeraj.

Neeraj has won it all, the gold medals at the World Championships, Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Diamond League title too.

On coming to Hangzhou this year after being at the start of his journey back in the 2018 Asian Games, Neeraj said, "It feels really good (to have won it all). The atmosphere is nice. I am meeting athletes of other players. It feels good meeting them. In 2018, I won gold in my first Asian Games. I was just getting started back then. The final is on October 4, looking forward to doing well in it."Talking about having won it all, Neeraj said that he loves hearing it from the athletes and that they all believe that they can compete and win against the best.

"I love hearing it from athletes that they believe that they can win too. My message was that we could win too and compete with top athletes from Europe and the US (winning the Olympic medal) that we always considered tough. You can see the performance of athletes, they are doing really well. The central government, their TOPS scheme, SAI, federation etc are all working well for us. I would like to thank private sponsors. It is the effort of all that Indian sports and athletics are going up."The star javelin thrower remarked that he loves the feel of big stadiums and huge audiences.

"I like it when the stadiums are big and have a lot of public. I have experienced everything. I have done some of my best performances in small stadiums and some in big ones. My experience at the World Championships was nice, the stadium was packed. Now, it would be great here too," said Neeraj.

Questioned on the secret of his consistency, Neeraj said, "Support from all over is a big cause. I have learnt from all the competitions I have played in. Self-belief is important. When I was small, I used to watch videos of international throwers hoping to meet or play with them. When you are working with passion, your dreams come true. I always had a passion for javelin and dreamt of playing with these athletes. Passion also helps you in progressing," explained Neeraj.

Neeraj said that the focus is always on doing well in the first throw as it is a confidence booster and creates pressure on opponents.

"But in the previous World Championships, I was not able to get good throws and even this year, I committed a foul. One should keep himself motivated till the last throw because the game can change anytime," he said.

On a concluding note, Neeraj said that he practised a bit in the stadium.

"Hopefully, it does not rain in the final," he concluded. (ANI)

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