Prize money is important for us athletes, says Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra (Image: X)

Neeraj Chopra and media share an intense relationship. On Thursday, at an online media interaction organised by JSW Sports, the Tokyo Olympics gold medallist talked of preparation and being in good health before the Paris Olympics.

When the golden boy from Tokyo spoke of health, it was both physical and mental. Neeraj spoke in Hindi, a language he is most comfortable with. “I am in good space and mentally well prepared. When I went to Tokyo, there were some doubts, a few things to be ironed out. Now I feel everything is in place. Andar pataa hai mujhe, he said, which meant, feel good in months before the Olympics,” said Neeraj.

He talked of consistency but was not too stressed about the 90-metre mark. “It all boils down to that day when I compete. It is not easy to predict what distance I will throw,” said Neeraj. The reference was Paris 2024 with World Athletics now coming up with prize money for athletes at the Paris Olympics and LA 2028, Neeraj was clear, money is needed. That Neeraj has not been distracted by money became evident when he spoke of only gold medal winners getting money in Paris.

He was not aware of WA decision that even silver and bronze medal winner would get money at the Olympics. Of course, Neeraj will aim for gold and said he will prepare and “throw best.” The Indian also spoke of how money is important in track and field. “We are not like tennis players who earn a lot. The money we get from Government as rewards is important for the family,” stressed Neeraj Chopra. He also thanked the TOPS scheme and JSW for support. “The federation (AFI) of course plays a very big role in supporting me and all other athletes,” added Neeraj.

His discourse on mental pressure was in detail but Neeraj Chopra seems relaxed, his facial contours conveying a calm presence.
In January 2024, Neeraj Chopra had met Roger Federer. “It was nice to meet such a great athlete and share so much. We shared thoughts and he (Federer) spoke of his love for Indian food. He also spoke of competing in the right number of events,” shared Neeraj.
Returning after a break, Neeraj mentioned how its not possible to compete in all events. “Three or four events before Paris. Diamond League in Doha and Pavo Nurmi Games, yes, in Finland. I can tell you more later,” explained Neeraj.

Asked about the season break, Neeraj said a break is important and the comeback is always a bit anxious. “It’s not always possible to hit top gear straightaway,” he said. “Kishore Jena will also do well,” added Neeraj.
On pressure leading into Olympics, how does Neeraj keep calm? “Apart from training, one does enjoy it. We change training pattern, make it easy one day, maybe. If I am in a nice city, go to a coffee shop and enjoy the beach in Turkey where I am now. All this is destressing,” said Neeraj.

Does Neeraj enjoy meeting people? “Yes, to win medals from Tokyo and then more events like World Championship and Diamond League, after that it has been important in the last three years. I get to meet more people now, and it’s a great feeling. Jadaa logon se milna huaa, medal jeetee jao, sabko achcha lagta hai,” said Neeraj as he opened up.

On conditions in Paris, he felt it will be good. “I like warm weather, actually. If it rains and gets cold, I don’t like it. I like to stay warmed up. It helps me throw well,” argued Neeraj.