Focused on Asian Games, world champion Neeraj Chopra recalls grand gesture for Nadeem after Zurich Diamond League
Neeraj Chopra reflected on his recent performances in World Championships and Zurich Diamond League. He also recalled his gesture for Arshad Nadeem.
Train, compete and repeat. Neeraj Chopra was crowned the javelin world champion after India's ‘golden boy’ produced the best throw of 88.17m in the World Athletics Championships final in Budapest. Four days after striking a historic gold in the World Championships, Neeraj plied his trade in the Zurich Diamond League on Thursday. Lifting late in the Diamond League, the Tokyo Games gold medallist produced a throw of 85.71m in his final attempt to secure the second spot in Zurich.
Though Neeraj sealed a podium finish, the final result brought an end to his winning streak in the 2023 season. The flamboyant athlete won the Doha and Laussane editions of the Diamond League prior to his epoch-making gold medal triumph at the World Championships in Budapest. With the Eugene Diamond League final and the Asian Games around the corner, India's first and only athletics world champion remained keen on capping off an injury-free campaign in Zurich.
Neeraj wants to stay injury-free for Asian Games
Responding to a Hindustan Times query in a press conference, world champion Neeraj said that he did not want to push himself too much and risk injuries in the lead-up to the upcoming premier events. “You can assume that there were almost three competitions in three weeks, because in the qualification round also we have to get prepared for the throws and everything. Though I only had to produce one throw, that is something else. But the progress remains the same. And then in the final, I had to give my 100 per cent. After that the travel part - from Budapest to here. So everyone was tired. So my main focus in Zurich was to remain healthy since I was coming back from an injury,” Neeraj said.
Chopra, who usually announces himself on main events with title-winning throws, kickstarted the competition with a throw of 80.79m. The reigning world champion fouled his next two attempts to momentarily occupy the fifth spot. However, Neeraj completed his comeback with the 85.22m throw that put him in the second spot. He also fouled his second-last attempt but his final bid produced an 85.71m throw which paved the way for the Indian superstar to take the second spot on the podium.
‘Wanted to enjoy the competition’
“Wanted to enjoy the competition. Because the World Championship is a stage where we play for the country. Similar to the Olympics, where we have to try and give more than our 100 per cent. Here in Zurich, we can take it easy and compete. I had already qualified for the Diamond League final, so I could afford to take it slightly easy here. We had to play carefully. It was good. I usually push myself but I didn't here. The main focus was to remain healthy and sometimes it's important to enjoy the competition too,” Neeraj added.
‘Asked Arshad about Pakistan flag’
In the same press conference, Neeraj was asked about his grand gesture for Pakistan javelin thrower - Arshad Nadeem. For the unversed, Neeraj had roped in Arshad for a picture after the Pakistani athlete won a silver at the World Championships."Arshad made his country proud, I felt bad, I asked him about the Pakistan flag, the flag was found later, everybody was there so I asked Arshad to come and take a picture," Neeraj recalled.
What's next for Neeraj
Neeraj is the third javelin thrower in history to hold the Olympic and World Championships titles. The reigning Olympic and world champion will take part in a 12-day training camp in Switzerland's Magglingen in the lead-up to the Diamond League final in Eugene. Neeraj's preparatory camp in Switzerland had earlier received a nod from the Mission Olympic Cell (MOC).