How Neeraj Chopra beat the odds en route to Tokyo Olympics gold, explains Dr Klaus Bartonietz

The German biomechanics expert says Chopra’s ability to come back from surgery in a short period before Tokyo 2020 was commendable.

By Abhishek Purohit
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Dr Klaus Bartonietz has called Neeraj Chopra’s gold-medal winning performance in men’s javelin throw at the Tokyo Olympics a “great” achievement.

Bartonietz, the biomechanics expert under whom Neeraj Chopra trained for Tokyo 2020, said that the 23-year old Indian had recovered after having surgery on his throwing arm and then went all the way at the Olympics.

That Neeraj had done this despite missing several events due to rehabilitation and later the COVID-pandemic travel restrictions only underlined his immense potential, according to the German veteran.

“It (the Olympics) is not a normal competition. The mental pressure is very high,” Bartonietz told Olympics.com.

“An Olympic victory is the maximum you could achieve. And under the circumstances, after the surgery and coming back and having this reduced type of competitions, it is actually great.

“We know he is the junior world record holder so he is a very powerful, talented thrower. It just shows once more his great potential.”

After winning gold at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2018, Neeraj Chopra underwent elbow surgery in 2019 and ended up missing major events such as the world championships, the Asian championships and the Diamond League.

“Neeraj was missing a lot of competitions. He was confident, he knew what he could do but to adapt his throwing style and technique during the course of four to six competitions over the last one-two years was not possible,” Bartonietz said.

“The competitions we had this year, in Sweden and Portugal, the conditions were not in favour of everybody.

“He actually had one good competition (in Finland) but this was also with (Johannes) Vetter. There was a little bit missing, it was the COVID effect and the travel restrictions.”

Johannes Vetter, the 2017 world champion, was Neeraj Chopra’s main rival going into Tokyo 2020. The 28-year old German - who has a personal best of 97.76m compared to Chopra’s 88.07 – had thrown in excess of 90m seven times in 2021 alone.

“So when Vetter said he did too many competitions… Neeraj did maybe not enough but it is better to do less than overdoing, always better,” Bartonietz said.

When asked if Neeraj Chopra had it in him to break the world record (98.48m, set by Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic in 1996) someday, Bartonietz pointed to Vetter’s claims ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and said it was better to remain grounded.

“That is hard to say. Maybe next year the world record will be 99 or 100 metres. It is better not to think about this and not speculate.”

Vetter had claimed that it would be difficult for Neeraj to beat him at the Tokyo Olympics as he was planning to throw more than 90m. He finished ninth with a throw of 82.52m.

“Vetter mentioned he will throw 100m in Tokyo, which means he would throw a world record, and what happened?” Bartonietz remarked.

“There is a German saying, it comes from soccer, to keep the ball flat. It means not playing such high passes where the opponent can catch the ball, it also means to stay modest and not be speculative.

“I mean everything is possible of course but it will take a few years to get ready for this, not just next year or in two years, it takes more time. You need enormous power and the technique must be almost perfect. There is a lot of work to do.”

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