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SAI should build indoor arena for javelin throw: Neeraj Chopra

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New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) With the Tokyo Olympic Games around the corner India’s star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is disappointed that he can’t compete in international events in Europe due to a huge spike in Coronavirus cases in India.

“We were supposed to go to Turkey in the last week of April but couldn’t go because several European nations banned Indians due to the surge in [Covid] pandemic cases in India,” he said during an online media interaction on Wednesday.

Chopra, 23, had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in January 2020 in South Africa.

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While Chopra was training in Patiala’s hot and humid weather conditions last week his rivals, particularly Germany’s Johannes Vetter, were competing in the European Throwing Cup in Split, Croatia. Vetter, 28, won gold with a throw of 91.12 metres.

Chopra’s personal best — and the national record — is 88.07m, set in March in Patiala.

He said that South Africa is good for training in winter while Europe is an excellent training base during summer as it gets too hot and humid in Patiala.

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“We should have an indoor stadium to train in all weather conditions in Patiala. I’ve seen several small countries have indoor facilities. The Sports Authority of India too should think of building one in Patiala, which is one of the major training centres for athletics in India,” said Chopra.

Top javelin throwers will compete on May 19 and 21 in Europe, but Indian throwers will again miss the opportunity due to pandemic.

Chopra said high quality competitions are important before going to a major event like the Olympics.

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“Competing with world class athletes is highly beneficial to build up confidence ahead of the Olympics. Since it will be my first Olympics, I need to participate in two-three good competitions to perform well in Japan. But it is not happening due to Covid-19,” he said.

In the first week of March, Chopra improved his own national record to 88.07m. Thereafter, his plans to train and compete in Europe to prepare for the Olympics failed to take off.

“I couldn’t compete in 2020 as the calendar was disrupted due to the pandemic. Chances of participating in international events this year also look bleak. Without participating in quality competitions in the build up to the Olympics it would become difficult to perform well in major tournaments,” he rued.

“I’ve been training for the past two years but not competing in any big tournaments. It is upsetting.”

Chopra, the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games champion, believes the competition in Tokyo will be highly tough as there are six to seven throwers capable of crossing 90m. “Ideally, a throw of 90m plus would be good for a podium finish in Japan. But it will all depend on the given day,” said the Arjuna Award winner.

Chopra said he couldn’t compete in 2019 due to an elbow injury on his right, throwing arm.

“The 2020 season was disrupted due to a pandemic. Half of the 2021 season is also gone and we aren’t able to travel abroad for competition,” he said.

Chopra said he is confident of breaking the 90m barrier. “I hope to achieve the goal of crossing 90m in competition this year,” he said.

—IANS

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