'I am feeling good and relieved to have qualified for the Olympics. The best feeling though is that I am able to come back to competition after my injury and subsequent surgery.'
Just being able to compete again is bigger relief for Neeraj Chopra than booking an Olympic berth, and the star javelin thrower says his comeback after a lengthy injury lay-off has given him hope that the hard times are well and truly over.
Chopra qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with a throw of 87.86 metres at the ACNE League meeting at Potchefstroom on Tuesday, after missing the entire 2019 season following a surgery on his elbow.
"I am feeling good and relieved to have qualified for the Olympics. The best feeling though is that I am able to come back to competition after my injury and subsequent surgery," the 22-year-old from Haryana said from his training base in South Africa.
His throw of 87.86m was his second best ever behind the 88.06m, achieved during his gold medal-winning show at 2018 Jakarta Asian Games.
Chopra said he is now focussed on winning a medal in Tokyo, where the Olympics will be held in July-August.
"I will be taking part in national and international competitions without pressure of having to qualify for Olympics. At the same time, I will focus on my training and on my technique to keep on improving my performance in the competitions leading up to the Olympics.
"I will try my best to win a medal in the Olympics and this performance is giving me hope," he said.
Chopra, who also won a Commonwealth Games gold in 2018, said the pain in his elbow has now fully subsided.
"I did not feel any pain on my elbow during the competition. My training in South Africa is going well. I thought I will begin with some caution and avoid straining my elbow.
"After the first few throws, I felt good and did not have any issue with my elbow. So I decided to put in some effort and it came out well. It was a big throw after a long time," he said of his performance on Tuesday.
He was seen wearing an elbow cap during the competition, but he said it was to keep his joint warm.
"I wore the elbow cap so that there was proper warming of the elbow area, nothing else. I was alright through the competition."
Chopra missed the World Championships in Doha last year despite qualifying for the event. He said he does not regret skipping athletics' showpiece event.
"I think it was a good decision. I have no regrets and I have forgotten about it now. Since I have qualified for the Olympics, I will now focus on a medal in the Olympics."
Chopra underwent an arthroscopic surgery on the elbow of his throwing arm in May last year.
He underwent rehabilitation at the National Institute of Sport (NIS) Patiala and the Inspire Institute of Sport, Vijayangar, before shifting base to Potchefstroom, South Africa to train under coach Klaus Bartonietz in November last year.