Excerpts from the interview with the ‘Golden Spearhead’.
What does it feel like to be India’s first ever track & field medallist?
I am absolutely delighted to have won the first-ever track and field medal for India, that too a gold. It’s the beginning of a new revolution in Indian sports. I don’t have words to explain how it feels. It was a proud moment for me when the tricolour was fluttering and the national anthem was being played at the stadium. I was standing with the gold medal around my neck. I believe the coming years will be great for Indian athletics.
The time lost in 2019 because of my injury (he had developed spurs in his elbow — in his throwing arm) and then because of the coronavirus in 2020, I believe the gold medal has healed all those bad memories and it has brought immense satisfaction to me.
Every athlete dreams of winning an Olympic medal in his lifetime, but here I am with a gold, what more can I ask for? I am an optimist and a firm believer in destiny. So, I believe if this gold has come despite the challenges posed by my injury and Covid-19 during the last two years, then I think the time lost was also in a way good for me.
During the final, what was going through your mind after each throw? When did you start feeling that you could actually win gold?
When the final was underway, there was only one thought in my mind that I had to give my best with every throw attempted. I have to ensure that my body movement remains in sync with my throws. I was confident about my game.
Javelin throw is a very technical game. It’s more about using your brain and keeping calm. A slight deviation from the technique can ruin your attempt. Does not matter that I couldn’t break the national record or achieve my personal best mark. The Olympic gold has its own shine and value. I realised that I had won the gold when the other competitors couldn’t produce their best in their last attempts.
How Klaus Bartonietz’s technique was different from Uwe Hohn?
I have been training with coach Klaus since 2019 and he has contributed immensely to my gold medal success in Tokyo. His planning and technique suit my game. I was with another German coach Uwe Hohn in 2018, I worked on my strength and fitness with him. We had a slightly different approach. He had his own ideas and wanted me to continue with that. I had a different technique of throwing. So, I spoke to him about this and then moved on to train under coach Klaus for fine-tuning my technique.
The way Klaus guided me and worked on my overall game benefitted me the most. Every coach has a different style, so I would like to say ‘thank you’ to Hohn sir as well. But it was Klaus under whom my overall game improved, my
technique improved and you all can see the results.
You dedicated your medal to Milkha Singh ji. What was your thought behind that?
I have watched Milkha Singh ji’s several videos from his athletics career. He wanted the Indian track and field athletes to conquer the Olympic podium. He narrowly lost a medal in Rome 1960. So he always wanted someone from India to go and win at the Olympics.
When I won the gold and the national anthem played out, all his words came flooding my mind and I just couldn’t control my emotions. Sadly, he is not with us to see this day. But, standing on the podium, I just thought about him, his long-standing wish and decided to dedicate this medal to him. PT Usha madam also dreamt of an Olympic medal during her career, so I have also fulfilled her wish.
Standing on the top of the podium, listening to the Jana Gana Mana and seeing the national flag being hoisted, what was that feeling like? What was going through your mind?
The feeling was that all your hard work and sacrifices have paid off. There are no words to describe those feelings, it can only be felt, And I know how it feels.
What is the next goal now for Neeraj Chopra- the athlete?
I will celebrate my win back home, eat ‘choorma’ dish prepared by my mother. I’ll take some much-deserved break and sleep well. Then, I’ll start my training and focus on the next year’s Commonwealth, Asian Games and World Championships.
You have been getting a lot of attention on social media. How do you see all of this?
Yes, I can see I have gained so many followers on social media after the Olympic gold. Good that people now know me, they see a star in me. But, I focus on my game and social media in my free time. It’s just for enjoyment.
What did Klaus say before the final?
Klaus told me, throw your best in your first attempt like in the qualification. Don’t leave anything to chance. I had also spoken to my uncle Bhim Chopra and my childhood coach Jaiveer before the final, they also said the same thing. They knew that something good would happen on Saturday and that’s what happened.
People are saying that you should play yourself in your biopic. What do you think about that?
Right now, my full focus is on my game. The biopic can wait. When I retire, a biopic can be made on me. I want to earn more achievements, bring more laurels for the country. I want to earn more respect as an athlete, so that there can be new stories associated with me when I finally hang up my boots.