In and out: Neeraj Chopra told to withdraw from Open nationals at the 11th hour
In less than 12 hours, star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra went from being the main attraction at the 59th National Open Athletics Championships in Ranchi — where he was scheduled to make a comeback after being on the sidelines for over a year because of an injury — to extending his rehabilitation.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) had also tweeted about his comeback to drum up interest around the competition which begins on Thursday.
Yet, within a few hours of releasing a statement in which Chopra was quoted as saying ‘I really want to get back to the competition mode’ and ‘doctors have said I am ok to compete’, a top AFI official confirmed that Chopra would not be participating in the championships.
Chopra’s name was in the entry list of the men’s javelin event but he was asked to withdraw after coaches felt he had not recovered sufficiently following an elbow surgery in May.
“Neeraj Chopra is not ready for competition yet. We had a discussion between the high performance director Volker Herrmann, bio-mechanics expert Dr. Klaus (Bartonietz), and deputy chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair, and were of the view that it was a bit early for him to return to competition. We decided that we should find him a competition a few months later in Europe. But at this point it is a little too risky to let him participate,” AFI president Adille Sumariwalla told The Indian Express. “We have told him not to participate and so we don’t expect him to participate.”
Incidentally, Chopra wanted to participate in the World Championships in Doha too but the AFI had to put its foot down.
Chopra is yet to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, the qualification period for which began on May 1 this year. With the World Championships coming to an end on Sunday, competitions in the rest of the year will be few and far between.
Chopra’s keenness to compete is understandable as he has been undergoing a period of rehabilitation and recovery since the surgery in May.
He had met qualification standards for the Worlds when he registered a distance of 83.90 metres at the All India Inter-Services Athletics Championships at Jalahalli in September last year.
Watching the world championships would have provided Chopra a feeling of ‘what if’ as the gold was bagged by Grenada’s Anderson Peters, who registered a distance of 86.69 metres. Chopra’s personal best stands at 88.06 metres, the throw which earned him the gold at the Asian Games.
Chopra had first felt discomfort in his elbow in November last year after winning gold medals at the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games. For a while on Wednesday, it seemed certain that Chopra would make a highly anticipated comeback. “Back in business, everyone’s super star, the one and only… Neeraj Chopra is all set to take the field at the 59th National Open Senior Athletics Championships,” the AFI had tweeted from its handle on Wednesday morning.
Chopra was also quoted in an AFI release as saying: “I really want to get back to the competition mode. And since this is the last competition of the season, I want to use it to get into that feeling of competition. I have spoken to my doctors and they have said I am okay to compete. I am feeling good. I started training in Patiala a few weeks back and the throws are going well.”
However, after assessing Chopra’s current condition and advising him to withdraw from the Open championships, Sumariwalla added: “He is recovering and throwing in practice. He is doing physiotherapy and is on a very good wicket at the moment but we don’t want him to give ‘extra jerk’ during a competition in an effort to win a medal.”
Chopra could not be contacted on Thursday.
Sprinter Nirmala Sheoran has been stripped off her two Asian Championships gold medals and banned for four years by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), which manages track and field doping cases. The AIU came out with the order to ban Nirmala on October 7 for testing positive for steroids drostanolone and metenolone at a competition back home in June 2018. According to AIU, the Indian athlete, whose biological passport also showed irregular blood readings, accepted the sanction and did not request for a hearing.
The period of her ban started from June 28, 2018. Her results from August 2016 to November 2018 were also struck off.
Nirmala had won gold medals in the 400m and 4x400m relay at the 2017 Asian Championships in India. She also ran in both the events at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. —