India's ace javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has said when he was forced to skip the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham due to a groin injury, he felt it was the end of his competitive season, but after the rehab in Germany he had the confidence to come back and compete in the Diamond League in Lausanne.
The Olympic Games gold medallist also said it was a matter of time before he breaches the 90-metre mark in competition.
Chopra on Friday finished first at the Lausanne Diamond League, becoming the first Indian to clinch the top spot in a Diamond League meet, after registering an 89.08m throw in his first attempt. In the Stockholm Diamond League earlier this year, Chopra had thrown a personal best of 89.94m and had finished second.
With his Friday's performance, he has now qualified for the Diamond League final on September 7-8 in Zurich, Switzerland, as well as the 2023 World Championships, which has a qualification mark of 85.20m.
The 24-year-old javelin thrower had picked up the groin injury on way to winning silver at the World Championships in Eugene, USA.
"I had to skip Commonwealth Games due to groin injury, and I felt that I will have to end the season. But there wasn't much pain, so I had the belief that I will recover before the tournament (Diamond League in Lausanne). I made some good throws in the training and was feeling well; hence we made the decision to compete here. I did my rehab in Germany with my coach and physio Ishaan Marwaha. It went really well. I had very limited time to prepare but proper planning in rehab helped me recover quickly," the star javelin thrower said.
"This win is very important for our country," he added.
Chopra said was he elated to see Olympic Games gold medallist in rifle shooting Abhinav Bindra in the crowd cheering for him on Friday.
"It was a special night, felt really good to win and most importantly made a comeback with a very good throw. Abhinav Bindra sir, IOC president Thomas Bach sir and the crowd were cheering for me, I enjoyed and felt really good to perform in such a great atmosphere," said Neeraj.
Putting the title into perspective, Neeraj said, "This win is very important for our country. I feel we shouldn't be only focusing on the events that happen after four or two years.
"Competitions like the Diamond League meet or continental tours are really good opportunities for athletes. It happens every year, and it gives us opportunities to do well. It really helps prepare well for the major tournaments because world-class athletes participate here. Performing well in these tournaments will also help Indian athletics and the sport," he opined.
He added, "I will be very happy to see more Indian athletes taking part in these competitions and I will be delighted to participate along with my fellow Indian athletes at a stage like this. (Steeplechaser) Avinash Sable and (long jumper) Sreeshankar also participated in the Diamond League this year, so gradually our country is reaching this level and if we will perform better here, then it will help Indian athletics do well at bigger stages."
By virtue of this win, Neeraj has qualified for the Diamond League finals, which will be held in Zurich next month. Asked about his plans for the finals, the Olympic gold medallist said, "Diamond League Finals in Zurich will be the season's last competition, so the plan is to continue doing the same things which I've been doing. It's only 10 days, I don't have much time to do more or train extra. The focus will be to end the season on a positive note without any injury."
Neeraj has also qualified for the 2023 World Championships, which will be held in Budapest, Hungary. With the throw, he breached the 85.20m qualifying mark.
Opening up on the 2023 World Championships, Neeraj said, "It's an advantage to qualify for the World Championships much in advance as there are other tournaments like Asian Games and Asian Championships lined up as well, so next year will be very important. And, then the Paris Olympics in 2024. So the World Championships qualification is already out of the picture, I can prepare well for all the competitions."
Reflecting on the successful season, Neeraj said, "It's been a great year for me so far. I have gone over 89m thrice out of the five competitions, 88.3m in the World Championships, and managed to do well in Kuortane Games with 86.69m despite the challenging weather. So, the performance has been consistent and now the focus is on doing well in Zurich. Yes, everyone has been asking about 90m throw, it will happen when the time comes; I don't have any pressure about it as such.
"I've always believed that Diamond League is a big competition and I really like competing here. I don't want to focus only on the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championships because winning a Diamond League Trophy is also a big achievement for an athlete," he added.