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World Athletics Championships 2022: Neeraj Chopra aims to bank on consistency for glory

Neeraj Chopra is ready for his biggest challenge of the year. He will be banking on his consistency to emerge triumphant during the 2022 World Athletics Championships.

World Athletics Championships 2022: Neeraj Chopra aims to bank on consistency for glory-ayh
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Chula Vista, First Published Jul 13, 2022, 2:09 PM IST

Olympic gold medalist Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra will rely on his red-hot form and consistency as he aims to grab a historic gold medal at the World Athletics Championships 2022, which gets underway on Friday in Eugene, USA. Chopra, 24 years old, is one of the favourites to win a medal during the showpiece event after he pulled off the third-best throw of the season during the 2022 Stockholm Diamond League on June 30, with an effort of 89.94 metres. A medal in the World Championships is a piece of history that Chopra is chasing, which he is yet to attain.

At the same time, Chopra would become only the second Indian track and field athlete, besides being the first male player from the nation, to win a medal during the World Championships. Long jumper Anju Bobby George was the first Indian to win a bronze at the event in Paris in 2003.

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"The preparation has been good, and my confidence level is high. In the three events I participated in, I had done two personal best and won one. I have been consistent in my three performances," Chopra was quoted as telling during a virtual media interaction session from his training base in Chula Vista, USA, reports PTI.

"I can do better. It was just 6 cm short of the 90 metres mark at the Stockholm Diamond League. So, hopefully, I can do my best in the World Championships," added Chopra. In his three outings this season, Chopra has improved his personal best on a couple of occasions, recording an 89.30 metres throw on June 14 during the 2022 Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland. Later, he landed his spear at 89.94 metres in Stockholm.

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Chopra won the javelin throw event during the 2022 Kuortane Games in Finland with an 86.69-metre throw in the wet and slippery conditions. His primary rival for the gold would be Anderson Peters of Grenada, who happens to be the 2019 World Championships gold medallist. Peters heads to the World Championships as the stand-out contender for gold, owing four out of the top throws this season, with his best effort being 93.07 metres.

The world champion in 2017, Johannes Vetter of Germany, who possesses the most 90 metres-plus throws among active athletes, has withdrawn from the World Championships due to a shoulder injury. The gold medal is not beyond Chopra's reach, having beaten Peters twice this season during the Paavo Nurmi Games and Kuortane Games.

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If Chopra gets the yellow metal, he will be the first male javelin thrower to follow Olympic success with World Championship gold since Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway did the same in 2008-09. Before that, world record holder Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic had attained the milestone in 2000-01 and 1992-93.

Asked about the mindset he will go into the World Championships, Chopra replied, "I will go with the same mindset I had in Tokyo, with a relaxed mind. I will give my best. That is the only thing. I am not putting pressure on myself." Yet, Chopra has learnt a thing from the 2017 World Championships, where he failed to qualify for the final round. He said he could not go into the qualification round, thinking he would quickly get into the finals.

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"I am not taking the qualification round lightly. I have learnt that from London in 2017. At that time, I did not have much international experience. I thought I would do 83 metres [the qualification mark in 2017] but failed to do it. If you don't do well in the qualification round and can't qualify for the final round, there is no point. I also have to be focussed and give my best during the qualification round," sounded Chopra.

Chopra will have his qualification round of the Eugene World Championships on July 21, followed by the finals a couple of days later. He has won most of his top competitions based on the first two attempts. During the Tokyo Olympics last year, his second-round effort (out of six shots) of 87.58 metres fetched him the historic gold.

"I try to get the best out of my first throw, and it often happens that the best throw comes from the first. Sometimes, that does not occur, so I must try to get the best in the last throws. But, it is not that you give your best in the first throw and then leave it. I have to try to give my best till the last attempt," Chopra concluded. He will be leaving Chula Vista for Eugene on Thursday.

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