When Neeraj Chopra began training again in the earnest last December, this time as an Olympic champion, the biggest challenge for him was to adjust to the intense physical activity and regain his fitness.
The javelin thrower didn’t get a chance to train for a few months after his gold medal at Tokyo, his time taken over by congratulations, public appearances and a much needed break. So when he returned to training at Chula Vista in the USA, he had to first get to a certain weight and then rebuild his strength.
« I had never been away from training for this long since I started competing, so that was a little challenging for me. My weight had increased and I had to get myself back to the same level of fitness and get used training that much, » Chopra told media at the Sportstar Aces Awards in Mumbai.
« I used to get tired physically, so had to push myself mentally. So that was a challenge, but I enjoyed that too, » he added.
It took the 24-year-old almost three months to get close to the physical level that saw him become the first Indian to win an athletics gold at the Olympics. However, there is still a fair way to go before he reaches his peak fitness again.
« If we’re talking about only losing weight that can be done. But regaining the same strength, speed or flexibility, along with having the same technique – that is what takes time. It took me two to three months to work on these things Even now there’s a lot of scope for improvement, » he said.
However, Chopra is no rush, preferring to build slow and steady in a stacked season which includes the World Championships as well as the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games (where he is the defending champion).
« At Chula Vista, I started with working on fitness first… core strength, running and jumps. Then I slowly started to improve strength and my javelin technique. There’s still time till the World Championships and I am taking it slow because after the Olympics I was not able to train properly for a couple of months. I am not trying to rush into getting as fit as I was before, » Chopra said.
The delayed Athletics World Championship will be held in Eugene, Oregon in July and Chopra said that training in US can be an advantage. « The biggest point is that India and USA have a massive time difference and even weather, so training there will help. But the primary need is to get fit and get back to that level again, » he said.
The Indian also aims to compete in other events before the Worlds and is likely to go to Turkey with the Indian team for a national training camp.
The Olympic champion is also not too stressed about the World Championships, the one big medal missing from his trophy cabinet. « There’s no point taking the pressure of winning medals at the Worlds from now [itself]. I will work hard, do my best in training and give my 100% there, » he said.