Asian Games: It will be a different kind of challenge, says Neeraj Chopra

It was the year that Chopra won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast and followed it up by bagging the gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

Hangzhou: Neeraj Chopra started his journey towards greatness in athletics at the Asian Games in 2018 in Jakarta. It was the year that Chopra won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast and followed it up by bagging the gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

As he returns to the Asian Games once again in the 19th edition at Hangzhou, life has totally transformed for the 25-year-old from Sonipat in Haryana. In his journey so far, Chopra has won the gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, won the Diamond League Final in 2022 and this year fulfilled his dream by winning the title in the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

So, as he gets ready to defend the Asian Games title that he won in Jakarta, a lot of other things have also changed for Chopra.

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“When I was participating in Jakarta, I had no pressure, nobody expected a lot from Games Village, do my stuff and enjoy myself,” he said.

Now Chopra carries the expectations of the entire nation, people expect him to win every time he steps up on the runway to throw his javelin, everyone in the athletics team looks up to him and people including other participating sportspersons lineup to take photographs and selfies with him.

Earlier, Chopra was eager to get photos clicked with cricketers, treated as demigods in India. Now, even the cricketers are eager to get photos clicked with him as did the Indian men’s cricket team in the Asian Games village in Hangzhou on Friday.

“Now the cricketers are also part of the Games like these. Last year the women’s team played in the Commonwealth Games and now both the men’s and women’s teams are here in Hangzhou. There are attempts to make it part of the Olympics too. So, it feels nice to meet them here. I felt very good after meeting them yesterday. I have always said the athletes’ village setup has a lot of positive effects on athletes. In the village, you will feel energised even if you have not had a good training session,” said Neeraj Chopra during a press conference at the Athletes Village in Hangzhou on Saturday.

Life certainly has come full circle for Neeraj Chopra. He has now become a global superstar in athletics.

“Yes, it was a very good event for me, I had a good throw of 88.06. But things have changed a lot since then, I have fulfilled some of my dreams — it was my dream to win an Olympic medal, which I did. Winning the World Championship was also a dream that I fulfilled,” Chopra said.

But Chopra says what he has learned throughout this journey is to remain humble, talk politely with everyone and take each day as it comes, be ready for the new challenges. He knows that fame can come and go, and the relationships he builds with people will stay forever.

He said the Hangzhou Asian Games also presents him with a challenge as it will be the first time that he will defend a title he won in a major multi-discipline sports event. Chopra had missed the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 and did not defend the gold he had won in Gold Coast in 2018.

“For the first time I will be defending a title I won in a mega event, so it will be a different kind of challenge. I just hope to give my hundred per cent here and do my best,” said Chopra, who is among the few Olympic champions in athletics that are taking part in Hangzhou.

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