The Indian ace, who had set a new national record with a massive throw of 88.06m to finish on top of the podium in Jakarta, is primed for yet another gold medal outing at the Hangzhou Sports Centre Stadium, with the track and field competitions beginning September 29.
The Asiad will be Neeraj’s final major competition of this year. He will be leading a 68-member athletics squad of 35 men and 33 women – India’s largest contingent for any sport in Hangzhou.
Neeraj has been on a roll this season, having pocketed the coveted World title beside winning the Doha and Lausanne legs of the Diamond League series. He suffered a rare setback late last week when he lost his Eugene Diamond League Final crown to Jakub Vadlejch of Czech Republic.
“I still have one more competition, the Asian Games in China. In big competitions, I think it’s about mindset; in big competitions we don’t need to prepare ourselves. When we enter the stadium, our mind is ready and the body is also ready for the competition. I really like to compete with these guys, all are good friends and we’re all competing in a very good way,” Neeraj had said after his second-place finish in Eugene.
Neeraj, who boasts of a massive personal best of 89.94m, has a best throw of 88.67m, achieved in Doha, this year. He is expected to face stiff competition from arch-rival, Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem, who had finished second behind Neeraj with a throw of 87.82m at the Budapest World championships.
While Neeraj hasn’t been able to breach the muchtalked about 90m-mark, Nadeem breached the barrier with a throw of 90.18m to secure the gold at the Birmingham CWG last year. The Indian anticipates renewing his rivalry with Nadeem at the Asiad and has acknowledged that the weight of fans’ expectations for a repeat show in Hangzhou would intensify the pressure.
“I met Nadeem after the event and we were happy that both our countries are making serious strides in the sporting arena. We were also happy to have prevailed over our European counterparts, who are stronger and very competitive. The rivalry between our two nations in sports will always be there. We will meet again in Hangzhou,” Neeraj said.
Giving the two some serious competition would be India’s promising javelin thrower Kishore Jena, who exceeded expectations at the Budapest Worlds with a throw of 84.77 to finish a creditable fifth.