“Yeh time hai aage badhne ka. I’ll now hang this gold at home and start preparing for the next season’s competitions and then the next Olympic Games,” said Neeraj Chopra.
For the past month, Neeraj Chopra has traversed the country with the Tokyo Olympic gold medal in his pocket, hopping from one felicitation event to another, meeting everyone from chief ministers to the Prime Minister of the country.
But now the 23-year-old wants to move on. With the next Olympics in Paris 1,047 days away, he’s already gearing up for a repeat.
“An athlete’s career is very short. Yeh time hai aage badhne ka (This is the time to course forward). I’ll now hang this gold medal at home and start preparing for the next season’s competitions and then the next Olympic Games,” Chopra said on Saturday at a felicitation organised by JSW Sports, who have supported him for many years, at the Inspire Institute of Sport in Vijayanagar. “Agar yehi medal mere gale main latka raha toh future ke liye itni mehnat nahi kar paunga. (If I keep wearing this medal around my neck forever, then I would not be able to train for the future.) I’ve won this medal. That makes me really happy. But now I want to train for the next one.”
Chasing after the next one is where things get tricky, as India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra will tell you. Bindra, who won a gold in the 10m air rifle event at Beijing 2008 has revealed his struggle to find the motivation to get back to the shooting range after winning gold at Beijing. He did eventually find it and go on to compete at two more editions, finishing agonisingly fourth at his last Games in Rio five years ago.
Chopra, though, said he was hungry for a repeat.
“I’ve won a Commonwealth Games gold and an Asian Games gold. Now the Olympic gold also has been won. But I feel that winning these medals doesn’t really mean an end of my journey. I feel the biggest challenge for an athlete is repeating a gold medal. Look at Usain Bolt. Look at Michael Phelps. They’ve repeatedly won golds at successive editions of the Games. That’s why they’re the greatest athletes in the world,” he said while sharing the stage with Tokyo silver medallist Ravi Dahiya and bronze medallists PR Sreejesh, and Bajrang Punia.
Chopra did admit, though, that when the Games began in July this year, even he did not think he would come back with gold from Tokyo.
“Physically, of course, we put in a lot of work to win a medal. But mentally we’re always thinking about the aura of the Olympics, and the level of the competition we will face at the Olympics. But when I won gold at Tokyo, that’s when it sunk in: even we can win golds. Why can’t we? To be honest, before the javelin throw final, I didn’t think I would come back with a gold. At Tokyo, the throw which won me a gold was not even my personal best. But at the Games, anything can happen. Now I can say that at future Olympics, and at other competitions too, the fortunes of Indian sport are about to change,” he proclaimed.