'I will try to stay away from injury, hoping for a successful as well healthy season.'
Winning the gold at the World Championships in August and breaching the magical 90m mark are Neeraj Chopra's targets this year as the star javelin thrower seeks to stay injury free in view of the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Chopra, who begins his season at the Doha leg of the prestigious Diamond League Meetings on May 5, had won a silver in the 2022 World Championships in the US, a year after clinching a historic gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
"It is going to be a long season this time, the Asian Games (javelin event) is going to be in October. I will try to stay away from injury, hoping for a successful as well healthy season," Chopra said from his current base in Turkey during a virtual interaction.
"I want to win gold in the World Championships in Hungary but there is no pressure whether I do it this time or later. I need to be better technically this year as the season is long," said the 25-year-old, who is currently training at the Gloria Sports Arena in Antalya, Turkey since April 1.
Talking about the Paris Olympics, he said, "There will be expectation and more pressure to win gold in Paris, so I will be even better prepared than Tokyo Olympics when I go to Paris.
"But hopefully, with the learning and experience from all these years, I hope I will be able to maintain myself, be consistent and get better every time I compete. Of course, the Tokyo gold will motivate me do better in Paris. I will work harder to do even better than Tokyo."
He said as compared to last year, he is in a better condition at this point in time physically and technically. Last year, he did not take part in the Doha Diamond League and began his season only in June at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland, one month later than this time.
"Last year, I was not ready (for Doha) in terms of overall fitness, strength and technically also. There was less time for training. So, we decided to start late. Now everything is going on well, so we decided to compete in Doha where some of the best in the world will be taking part.
"Technically and physically, I am much improved than last year. Also, I have been training for a longer time now. Hoping that it will be a successful season for me."
Chopra, the reigning Diamond League champion after winning the grand finale in September last, will join world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada and Olympic silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic in Doha in the first meet of the 14-leg one-day series of the season.
Chopra had earlier taken part in Doha Diamond League in 2018 when he had finished fourth with a best throw of 87.43m.
He said he would also be looking to cross the 90m mark this year, though he is not putting himself under pressure to achieve the feat.
"Everybody has been asking about 90m mark since 2018. Last year, I was just 6cm short of 90m. I hope to do it this year but I will not put any pressure on myself.
"90m is a magical mark and 90m club is famous in world of javelin. I hope to enter it this year," said Chopra who has a personal best of 89.94m.
Asked if there was any lesson he has learnt in the last few years, he said, on hindsight, he should not have gone for his fifth and sixth throws after injuring himself during the World Championships in Eugene, US, last year.
The injury led to Chopra pulling out of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham where he was to defend the gold he had won in 2018.
"After I suffered the injury during fourth throw, I went to coach (Klaus Bartonietz) and physio (Ishaan Marwaha) and told them that I will not go for fifth and sixth throws. But later, I could not stop myself, I put straps (around thigh) and went for the throws. If at all there is a lesson to be learnt, I hope I will not do like that in future."
After his silver-winning throw of 88.13m in his fourth attempt, Chopra went for his fifth and sixth throws which were, however, fouls.
Chopra said nothing is confirmed about future events other than the Doha Diamond League. Last year, he took part in only three top class events before the World Championships.
"We will plan to take part in Diamond League meetings and Continental Tour events but nothing is final as yet beyond Doha. Last year also, we planned for more events but, due to travelling and training issues, I could not take part in some."
The superstar javelin thrower is also upbeat about the rising profile of the sport in the country as well as that of athletics as a whole.
"We now have seven to eight javelin throwers who have thrown above 80m. I think few countries in the world would be having these many 80m plus javelin throwers. So, an 80m thrower will not be a sure shot medal winner now.
"Not only in javelin, the other countries now know that India is coming up as a performing country in the athletics world."
Chopra informed that 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medal winner triple jumper Eldhose Paul is also taking part in the Doha Diamond League in his event.