NEW YORK: Neeraj Chopra won’t be coming to India anytime soon, as the javelin thrower has decided to extend his stay in the US by four-and-half months till the World Athletics Championships in Oregon from July 15 to 24, TOI has learnt. There’s a possibility that the Tokyo Olympics gold medallist may return only after the Birmingham Commonwealth Games (CWG), which is scheduled to start four days after the Worlds, on July 28.
Neeraj has currently been training at the Chula Vista elite athlete training centre in the US since December 5 last year and was scheduled to arrive home after March 4, following the completion of his 90-day off-season camp.
Neeraj placed his request for extension with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the same was forwarded to the Sports Authority of India (SAI), which cleared the proposal. “It made no sense for Neeraj to return home, given the packed international calendar which will see him competing at the Worlds, Birmingham CWG and Hangzhou Asian Games (September 10 to 25),” a source in the know of the development informed.
“Many world-class athletes prefer to train in Chula Vista for big-ticket events like the Worlds. They make their bookings months in advance to stay at its residential facility. It would have been difficult for Neeraj and his support staff to get a booking at the facility closer to the Worlds. So, it’s been decided to let him stay there and continue with his training. This will keep him fresh not only for the Worlds but for the CWG and Asiad as well. Also, one is never sure about this Covid-19, like when the new wave strikes the globe and the subsequent restrictions will follow,” the source added.
It’s also been learnt that around 25-30 track and field athletes and 10-12 coaches and support staff will join Neeraj at the Chula Vista centre for the period between June 18 and July 13 to prepare for the Worlds. These athletes will include those who have already qualified for the event and those likely to qualify. The 26-day training camp will provide the athletes much needed exposure. “The trip will help them acclimatise with conditions in the US ahead of the Worlds.” the source said.
Athletes qualified for Worlds: Neeraj Chopra (javelin throw), Sandeep Kumar (20km walk), Rahul (20km walk), Avinash Sable (3000m steeplechase), Tajinderpal Singh Toor (shot put), 4x400m relay men (six athletes), Kamalpreet Kaur and Seema Punia (discus throw) and Priyanka (20km walk)
Likely to qualify: 4x400m relay women (six), Annu Rani (javelin throw), Harmilan Bains (1500m), DharunAyyasamy (400m hurdles), Hima Das (200m), Dutee Chand (100m/200m), Murali Shreeshankar (long jump); Bhavana Jat (20km walk) and Karanveer Singh (shot put)