Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian to win a gold medal in athletics at the Olympic Games on Saturday but the 23-year-old said the pressure of delivering at the biggest stage didn’t get to him. Speaking at a virtual press conference after his 87.58m throw saw him secure the men’s javelin throw title at the Tokyo Olympics, Chopra said, “Because I had participated in a few international competitions, I didn’t feel any pressure in the final. It also helps when your first throw lands well. I felt confident after that first throw (of 87.03m),” he said.
“After that throw, I was thinking of the fact that the Olympic record which is 90.57m. My own personal best is 88.07m. So, I was thinking of trying to target the Olympic record in the subsequent throws. I gave my everything, but javelin throw is a technical sport and not just about power, so I couldn’t better the second attempt (which fetched the gold medal). My next target will be to cross the 90m mark,” he added.
“The two-three international competitions that I participated in this year really helped me. The reason I didn’t feel any pressure at the Olympics was because I had played against most of my opponents a few times,” he explained.
Speaking of his injury troubles which saw him stay out of action for the entirety of 2019, Chopra said, “I can’t explain how happy I am today. It was of course a difficult time when I had that injury. Then the surgery was successful. Even though the year 2019 went to waste because of the injury, the focus was always on the Olympics.”
The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, just a few months after his successful return from injury in 2020, didn’t bother him either, Chopra said.
“When the Tokyo Olympics was postponed, I tried not to take it negatively. At the time, I told myself that now I have an extra year to prepare for the event,” he added.
On being the first ever Indian to win a gold medal at the Olympics, Chopra said: “We have won medals in the past. There was a gold medal in shooting, there were many gold medals in hockey. But there was none in athletics. Milkha Singh and PT Usha had come close in the past. So it was very important to win this medal.”
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