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India's Neeraj Chopra in action during the men's Javelin final of the Asian Games at Hangzhou 2022 on October 4, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

Doha: India’s Olympic javelin champion Neeraj Chopra on Thursday said he was hoping to break the elusive 90-metres mark at the Doha Diamond League as he warms up for the Paris Games.

Chopra, a 26-year-old farmer’s son from the northern state of Haryana, added a second Asian Games gold in Hangzhou last year to his Olympic and world titles.

And while he has achieved stardom in India, winning the nation of 1.4 billion’s first Olympic athletics gold at Tokyo 2020, membership of the elite 90m club has so far escaped him.

“I really want to break this barrier,” Chopra told a news conference, a day before the Diamond League meeting in the Qatari capital.

A throw of 90m would still leave the Indian athlete well short of Jan Zelezny’s world record of 98.48m set in 1996.

Chopra said questions over the landmark had followed him since he threw 88.06 at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, not least because of the elbow surgery which forced him to miss the 2019 season.

“I am stuck between 88 and 90 metres,” said Chopra.

Chopra, who set his personal best of 89.94 in 2022, said he had also hoped to break 90m last year in Doha, which is “famous for 90 metres”.

“But we were not lucky because (of) too much headwind. Maybe tomorrow it will be good,” he said.

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Known for his boyish looks and bright smile, Chopra acknowledged his popularity in India but downplayed his celebrity in comparison to cricket superstars Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni.

He said a decision to train outside India, in South Africa, Turkey and in Europe later this year, was motivated by the need to focus on the Paris Olympics, which start on July 26.

“It’s good for my profile if I train in India,” Chopra said. “But right now it’s Olympic year ... I want to train more.”

“India is a really big country and everyone wants gold always but it’s really hard in the Olympics because all the world’s best athletes will come and compete there,” he added.

“But my focus is to stay healthy and just focus on my technique and if I stay healthy, everything will be good.”