Neeraj Chopra withdraws from Ostrava event, citing muscle stiffness

| Updated: 27 May, 2024 1:58 pm IST

NEW DELHI: India’s top medal hope for the upcoming Paris Olympics, Neeraj Chopra, has withdrawn from the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold event in Ostrava, Czech Republic, citing adductor muscle stiffness. The announcement comes just two months before the Olympics, causing concern among his fans and the sporting community.

Chopra, the gold medalist in javelin at the Tokyo Olympics, made the decision following a hectic month in which he participated in two competitions just four days apart, the Doha Diamond League and the Bhubaneswar Federation Cup. In a statement on social media, Chopra explained that he “felt something” in his adductor during a recent throwing session and opted to avoid taking risks, especially during the Olympic year. “I am not injured but I don’t want to take any risk during the Olympic year so I had to take this decision. Once I feel it’s fully recovered, I will get back to competitions,” he wrote.

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Manisha Malhotra, the head of Sports Excellence and Scouting at JSW Sports, which manages Chopra, attributed his withdrawal to “adductor tightness and the fatigue of competing in back-to-back events.” Malhotra also noted that after the Federation Cup, Chopra traveled back to Poland, where he has been training. She described his decision to skip the Ostrava meet as a precautionary step and mentioned that he is scheduled to participate in the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku next month.

Participation in Federation Cup raises questions

Chopra’s decision to compete in the Bhubaneswar Federation Cup, a domestic event, has raised questions given the timing so close to the July 26-August 11 Paris Olympics. The Federation Cup was not initially on Chopra’s schedule but was added following discussions with top Athletics Federation of India (AFI) officials. Chopra had indicated he would not participate in the mandatory Inter-State Championships at Panchkula in late June, as it would disrupt his European training and competition schedule. As an alternative, he agreed to compete in the Federation Cup.

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Chief national coach Radhakrishnan Nair clarified the sequence of events, stating that the AFI had a policy requiring all Olympics-bound athletes to participate in the Inter-State Championships. Chopra’s participation in the Federation Cup was seen as a compromise, and his coach agreed to this arrangement.

During the Federation Cup, held on May 14, Chopra won gold with a throw of 82.27 meters, significantly below his personal best of 89.94 meters. Following the competition, Chopra engaged in promotional activities for Puma and the Indian Olympic Association, raising further concerns about the demands placed on him.

No exemption for top Athletes: AFI

Despite Chopra’s status as an Olympic and World Championships gold medalist, AFI’s chief national coach Nair emphasized that no exemptions were made from the mandatory competition participation policy. “This year we have made it compulsory for everyone to participate. Athletes, including Neeraj, were informed about this over two months ago,” Nair said.

In his first competition of the year at the Doha Diamond League, Chopra finished second with a throw of 88.36 meters, narrowly behind the Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch, who won with a throw of 88.38 meters.

As Chopra focuses on recovery, the sporting community remains hopeful for his swift return to form, ensuring he can compete at his best in the Paris Olympics.

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