World Championships: How Faster Arm Speed ​​Helps Neeraj Chopra Throw Further

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is forced to act like a student in a race against time through no fault of his own. He had to complete a year’s curriculum in about six months. The extended congratulations after Olympic gold robbed him of valuable time to prepare for the World Championships. Losing weight, regaining sports fitness, building strength, regaining flexibility, starting throwing practice and polishing technique must be done step by step.

A rushed job is not advisable in an injury-prone sport. Nevertheless, Chopra was able to pass with flying colours. A gold, a silver, a Diamond League second place finish and breaking the national record twice have all shined on his record since returning to competition at the Paavo Nurmi Games in June. Two 89-meter-plus throws this season and the second-best throw of the year make him a favorite at the world championships in Eugene.

The lack of time has also taught Chopra to prepare wisely. The 24-year-old says he’s not as strong as he was at the Tokyo Olympics. Improved arm speed and focus on technique have helped him achieve a touch distance of 90 yards.

Reaching a point where he’s close to the 90-meter throw wasn’t easy for Chopra after winning Olympic gold. (File)

“Before we went to Tokyo, we were in Bhubaneshwar (the pitcher camp was moved from Patiala to the capital, Odisha). Back then my strength was greater compared to now. When it comes to lifts or jumps and everything, I was stronger. When I talk about my strength in Tokyo, my full squat was 160kg to 170kg. Now I’ve managed up to 140 kilograms because I didn’t have the time to build up strength. This time the focus is on technology. My strength is at a good level, but throwing technique is important, like throwing angle, and that helps me,” Chopra told The Indian Express.

Chopra’s greatest strength is his athleticism. He might as well have become a decathlete because he’s good at sprinting, jumping and lifting. He’s also blessed with resiliency, flexibility, and a natural arm speed that has gotten better.

“I feel like my arm speed is faster now. How fast your arm is is an important aspect and that helps me a lot. There’s always room for improvement when it comes to technique.” One of the methods Chopra has used to improve his arm speed is to throw a lighter javelin in practice. The standard javelin used on the men weighs 800 grams and Chopra uses one that is 100 grams lighter to work on arm speed.

“It’s not easy to improve it (arm speed). My natural arm speed is good. We can’t train too much (to improve arm speed), but we can throw with a light javelin. In practice, after throwing an 800 gram javelin, I throw a 700 gram javelin to see how fast the arm is. It’s lighter and the arm will go faster. Javelin angle must be good (34 to 36 degrees) and arm speed too. When the arm speed is high, the power is transferred to the javelin,” Chopra said.

dr Klaus Bartonietz, the biomechanics expert who coaches Chopra, says he’s been pleasantly surprised by Chopra’s progress this season. 89.30 meters at the Paavo Nurmi Games for second place, 86.69 on slippery track at the Kuortane Games for first place and 89.94 at the Stockholm Diamond League, just behind world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada.

“It was a short season. But what can I say, it was excellent. Better than expected. Usually you start the season with 85 meters or 86 meters and then you go to 88 meters. But he started off with really good throws and he’s doing well,” Bartonietz told The Indian Express.

That Chopra throws well with the lighter javelin is a sign his technique is good, the coach said. The German gives an example of the training throw just a week before the Olympics.

“He threw 90 meters with a 700 gram javelin. It was a very nice litter just six days before qualifying (in Tokyo). With a light spear, he is difficult to handle and difficult to control. If you’re able to do that, that’s a good sign. The spear must be controlled. Don’t throw your arm too early. Other athletes are inconsistent in their technique, but Chopra is more consistent and consistency is a great foundation for a pitcher,” Bartonietz added.

Reaching a point where he’s close to the 90-meter throw wasn’t easy for Chopra after winning Olympic gold. Having to criss-cross the country to become the first Indian track and field athlete to win a medal at the Summer Games took its toll. Chopra gained almost 30 pounds by the time he reached the training base in Chula Vista, California.

“After the Olympic Games in Tokyo, I also gained weight. So getting back into physical fitness was a big challenge. I started training in December. So I had to do everything in those five to six months. It was a challenge but I made it. It took time to throw the spear well. If I had started out overweight, I could have injured myself.”

Bartonietz believes Chopra can throw 90 yards this season, but he doesn’t let the character take over Chopra’s mind space. Bartonietz cites the example of the great German Johannes Vetter to warn against aiming for distance rather than process.

“Neeraj can realistically throw 90-92 meters this year, but it depends on how hard you can train. Vetter had a 100-meter project, but we had a 100-kilogram snatch program (105 kg is Chopra’s personal best). But in Vetter’s case, 100 meters is a world record. If you focus on it that much, it’s not good mentally. You have enough pressure from opponents, from society, so why do you need this extra pressure? This is not recommended. More than distance, it is the process of training and practicing.”

The athletics calendar has to be rolled back four years ago to find out when Chopra last failed to win a medal at a major event. Chopra finished fourth at the Diamond League finals in Zurich. A week later, Chopra finished sixth at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava. Since then, Chopra has not returned empty-handed from the 11 competitions he has attended. He has won eight of them, with two second places and one third place. Chopra, the Olympic champion, appears destined to add a world championship medal to his resume.

Chopra’s ability to set the tone early in the competition has worked in his favor. At the Olympics, his first throw of 87.03 would have earned him gold. In the second round he improved to 87.58. His first throw at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games was enough for gold. Improving the distances in the third and fourth rounds in Gold Coast and Jakarta showed just how far ahead of the competition he was. He proved his class in Tokyo and will now get another chance to cement his reputation at the World Cup.

But Chopra’s strength can also be a weakness. Chopra peaks early in the streak of six throws in a match. But what happens when a pitcher or two come up in the second half. In Zurich, Chopra was in third place with a best throw of 85.73 meters (2nd throw) until the German Thomas Rohler snatched the place in the last lap with 85.76 meters.
In Stockholm Chopra broke the national record with 89.94 meters in his first throw and was the clear leader until the start of the third round. But when defending champion Anderson Peters overtook him with 90.31 meters, Chopra had to settle for silver.

Once an athlete has thrown their personal best in a competition, it will take a Herculean effort to beat it, Bartonietz said. “In Stockholm he was the leader. He has already thrown a PB. So he did very well and then it’s difficult to be very, very good.

Pitchers who get a big shot in the last round can spoil Chopra’s party at the Worlds. “There’s (Anderson) Peters and (Keshron) Walcott. You can fight to the end. Neeraj has not yet been forced to do so. At the Olympics, his first throw was good enough, and then he did better on the second.”

Leave a Comment