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'Cool cat’ Neeraj Chopra inspires other Indian athletes to give their best, says AFI chief Adille Sumariwalla

Chopra, who is also the reigning world champion in men’s javelin throw, will once again be the cynosure of all eyes when the Paris Olympics begins later this month.
Last Updated : 02 July 2024, 15:44 IST

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Mumbai: Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra is a "cool cat" who never takes pressure irrespective of the occasion and inspires other Indian athletes to bring out their best, said Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president Adille Sumariwalla here on Tuesday.

Chopra, who is also the reigning world champion in men’s javelin throw, will once again be the cynosure of all eyes when the Paris Olympics begins later this month.

“One (side) is Neeraj and one (other side) is the rest of them. As far as Neeraj is concerned, he is a cool cat,” Sumariwalla said while talking about India’s superstar athlete during a panel discussion organised by the Sports Journalists Association of Mumbai.

“He is one of those who takes pressure away. He is not thinking of the past, not of the future. He's thinking of the moment, that's one of his strongest points. If you ask him, ‘dar lagta hai?’ (are you afraid?), he will say ‘dar toh sabko lagta hai’ (everyone gets afraid). He says, ‘tension kuch nahi hai’ (there is nothing like tension).”

“I always chat with these people in warm up area before they go in to compete. He will say ‘tension kuch nahi hai, aap tension mat lo, mein kar doonga’ (There is no tension, you do not take any. I will do it).”

Sumariwalla said more than India’s first-ever Olympic gold medal shooter Abhinav Bindra, Chopra has been able to inspire the athletes.

“The rest of them have now started to believe that if a Neeraj Chopra can do it -- (the fact that) he stays with us, he eats the same food, he is (of the) same flesh and blood, he sleeps in the same room as we do. If he can do it, we can do it also.

“If Abhinav (Bindra) could get a medal, so can we.

"Abhinav set that trend. But that one, ‘achha wo shooting hai’ (but that is shooting), my athletes didn't understand. But when a somebody, who came from not a really urban area, who could go out there and do it, it has changed the mindset and the psyche of the athletes,” the AFI president said.

Sumwariwalla said even though Chopra has never thrown 90m, his consistency at tournaments and ability to give his best at the ‘crunch’ situation sets him apart.

“Everybody keeps putting pressure on Neeraj. (But we need to) understand that the only reason why he has won Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships and the Olympic Games is simply because of his consistency,” he said.

“He has never been the No. 1 thrower in the world. He has always been, in terms of highest performance, that year’s No. 4 or 5. He has never thrown 90m. But when it comes to crunch, he will throw his 88-89 meters, those guys will throw 87 meters, he will win the gold,” Sumariwalla added.

However, the AFI president refused to predict if Chopra would be able to clinch a second consecutive gold medal at the Paris Games.

“Can I predict he will win another gold? (It is) very difficult to do that. His strength is his consistency. There are at least 4-5 throwers in the world today throwing over 90m which Neeraj has never ever done,” he said.

Sumariwalla said India’s performance in the Paris Olympics will be better than before but refused to guess the of medals the country would win.

“I think the Indian team will do better than they did at the last few Olympics. When I say better, I never talk in terms of medals. I'm not an astrologer and I can't predict medals. You see data and I think you need to go by data. You need to follow a process,” he said.

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Published 02 July 2024, 15:44 IST

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