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Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra leaves Patiala camp

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has left the national preparatory camp at Patiala’s premier National Institute of Sports (NIS). Chopra, who has qualified for the Olympics, is in the core group of 25 athletes training at NIS. The 2018 Jakarta Asian Games gold medallist left for home in Haryana’s Panipat district last Sunday citing a family problem. In a text message, Chopra said he had to leave because of important work. Asked when he would return, Chopra told this paper: “When I’m free will go back.”

According to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by Sports Authority of India (SAI) in May for national campers, 14-day quarantine is mandatory for athletes entering the SAI campus.

Returning from a long layoff, Chopra sealed an Olympic spot with a throw of 87.86m in Potchefstroom, South Africa, last January. The Olympic qualifying mark was 85m.

Chopra, 22, is one of the five Indian athletes who qualified for Tokyo before the novel coronavirus disrupted global sport and the Olympics was shifted to 2021. The others are: Shivpal Singh (javelin), Avinash Sable (men’s 3000m steeplechase), KT Ifran and Bhawana Jat (20km walk). As finalists in the 2019 Doha World Championships, the 4x400m mixed relay team has also sealed an Olympics berth.

In May 2019, Chopra had elbow surgery on his throwing arm. After his comeback in South Africa, Chopra went to Turkey. He returned to India before the lockdown on March 25 but was quarantined for a fortnight at NIS.

After being isolated for nearly two months without any access to the grounds or facilities, athletes resumed training from third week of May. However, a number of them have left since.

Last month, Rajiv Arokia, the former men’s 400m national record holder, went home citing a family problem. It has been over a fortnight but Arokia has not returned from Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu.

Arokia, 29, was member of the national men’s and mixed 4x400m relay team that won silver in Jakarta. Like Chopra and Arokia, Manjit Singh, Asian Games men’s 800m champion, left citing a family emergency.

International 400m hurdler MP Jabir from Kerala went home in the last week of June. The 24-year-old, winner of bronze at the 2019 Asian Championships is yet to return.

“There is no immediate target in sight. Thus, it’s difficult to focus. Moreover, there is just one training session a day. If federation can give a break, we will come back refreshed,” said an athlete in Patiala.

“It’s uncertain whether Olympics will be held next year or not. In that case focus of training has to be changed,” the athlete said requesting anonymity.

World Athletics, the world governing body in track and field, has suspended Olympic qualification till November. The domestic calendar too stands cancelled. Adille Sumariwalla, president of Athletics Federation of India (AFI), said he is hopeful of having national competition in mid-September.

Source: HindustanTimes