Tokyo. Neeraj Chopra, who on Saturday created history by winning India’s first gold medal in athletics at the Olympics, is now eyeing next year’s Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championships. He says that at the moment his focus is only on the game, there is no place for a biopic or anything else in between. Excerpts from an interview with the star Indian athlete:
Q: What is it like to be India’s first track and field medalist?
Answer: It feels great to win the first medal in track and field for India, that too gold. It has been a wonderful start. Can’t describe it in words. It was a very proud moment when the national anthem of our country was playing and I was standing on the podium with the gold medal. I think the future will be great for Indian athletics.
Question: You dedicated your medal to Milkha Singh. Any particular reason?
Answer: The reason behind this was that I used to watch a lot of Milkha Singh videos. He said that any person from our country who went to the Olympics and was left behind by a small margin in the medal race, should go and get a medal. Nothing else happens when the national anthem is played. That’s how I felt when I won the gold and the national anthem was playing. I was sad that he is no longer with us. But his long-standing wish in my mind was fulfilled by me. Wherever he is, his dream has now come true. Other athletes like PT Usha Ma’am, who came fourth and missed out on a medal, must have been overjoyed. His long wish came true.
Q: During the final on Saturday, what was going through your mind after each throw? When did you start to realize that you could really win a gold medal?
Answer: When the final was going on I had only one thought in my mind. It was that I have to give my best on every throw. The body was fine. I thought I would do my best today. But our sport, javelin throw, is a very technical sport. Even if there is a small problem, the distance makes a difference. No worries about not breaking national records or doing your best. But winning gold in the Olympics has its own fun. When the last throw was done for everyone, I thought the gold was mine because till that time (my) focus was only on the final.
Q: How was the journey of the last 3 years? You did not play in 2019 due to injury and then got hit by the pandemic. How does it feel now to see those years and the efforts you put in at that time?
Answer: I think this gold medal has made everything right – it has made up for the damage caused due to injury in 2019 and due to corona in 2020. Olympic medals, especially gold, are every athlete’s dream. I guess I don’t mind the time that came in between. I feel extremely satisfied with the time I have endured to get the gold medal.
Q: What did your coach Klaus Bauterenitz tell you ahead of Saturday’s final? Have you talked to anyone before? your family or friend?
Answer: Before the final, Klaus told me to try to do the first throw very well, just like I did in the qualification round. I spoke to my younger uncle Bhim Chopra. I also spoke to my senior Jaiveer. I don’t talk much, just make small talk. Everyone I spoke to thought something good would happen and asked me to compete with all my heart. Everyone was happy when I won the gold.
Q: You have been training with Klaus for 2 years. How much has he played in your journey to the top of the Olympic podium? How was he different from Uwe Hon?
Answer: I have been training with Klaus since 2019. He has contributed a lot in winning me a medal. I love his training plan and technique. I was with Uwe in 2018. I worked with him a lot to improve my strength. On the technical side, yes, he was a little different in conveying the technique. It felt a little different to me. When I started working with Kloss, his way of talking through technology suited me. Every coach has his own way of working and you get to learn something new from him. I want to say thank you to Uwe sir. As for Klaus sir, he trained me with full dedication and the result is in front.
Q: Standing on top of the Olympic podium, listening to the national anthem and when the national flag was unfurled. How was that feeling? What was going through your mind?
Answer: It seemed that whatever hard work and obstacles came in between, they disappeared from my mind after hearing the gold medal, the national flag and the national anthem. It was all worth it. There are no words to describe those feelings. They can only be felt. I know how it feels.
Q: What is the next goal for athlete Neeraj Chopra now?
Answer: Now that I have won the gold medal, I will celebrate a little with my people at home. If I train well, I will go to some competitions this year. Otherwise I will focus on Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championship next year.
Q: You are getting a lot of attention on social media and in the last few days you have got millions of new followers. After becoming a social media star, how do you see this new attention now?
Answer: I noticed that a lot of followers have increased on social media. Especially after the Olympic gold medal because everyone watched the final. It feels good because sometimes I post tweets related to exercise, throwing and competition results. It feels great that everyone is congratulating me with nice comments. But I always try to focus on the game. Sometimes I use social media to share something. These small doses of joy are needed.
Q: Your mother says that she is waiting with Churma at home. What are your plans on returning to India? What would you like to spend the next few weeks doing?
Answer: I will go to my house and eat churma and some other things made by my mother. The purpose for which I came to Tokyo has been fulfilled. The plan is to come to India, eat home cooked food, celebrate with our people and then start training.
Question: People are saying that you should play yourself in your biopic! What do you think about it, and if not you, who would you like to see play on screen?
Answer: I don’t think much about it. For now, it is important to focus on the game. When I leave the game, a biopic would be appropriate. Because now the effort is to get better results and win more medals for the country so that new stories can come in life. As long as my career in sports is on, I am not thinking of a biopic. After I retire, there will be no problem in coming to it. (IANS)
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