Olympics-Travel restrictions hurt India thrower Chopra's Tokyo preparation

FILE PHOTO: Athletics - 2018 Asian Games - Men's Javelin Throw - GBK Main Stadium, Jakarta, Indonesia - August 27, 2018 Gold medalist Neeraj Chopra of India REUTERS/Darren Whiteside/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Neeraj Chopra has been training hard for this year's Olympic Games but India's top javelin thrower fears not being able to compete internationally might compromise his bid for a medal in Tokyo.

The 23-year-old has been starved of international competition since securing his Olympic qualification in South Africa early last year, which followed an entire 2019 lost because of an elbow injury.

Chopra recorded his personal best of 88.07 metres in a domestic event in Patiala in March this year but has not been able to assess himself against his international rivals.

With the world's second most populous nation grappling with a devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, several countries have banned arrivals from India, while many others have announced lengthy quarantines for the Indians.

"Competition is as important as training and I badly need opportunities to compete abroad," Chopra told a virtual news conference organised by the Sports Authority of India on Wednesday.

"When you train abroad, you don't have any distractions, and you have a competition almost every second week. I miss that."

Chopra had plans to train in Turkey this month but that camp has been suspended as he and other Indian athletes would have to complete two weeks of quarantine on arrival.

"In some countries, you have to quarantine for 21 days, which is simply not an option so close to the Games," said Chopra.

Instead, the Asian and Commonwealth gold medallist will continue to train in the north Indian city of Patiala where the temperature is rising.

"It would only get hotter in June. I just hope we had an indoor facility here."

His personal best would have been good enough for a bronze medal in 2016 Olympics but Chopra knows he would have to do better to be on the podium in Tokyo.

"I believe the benchmarks will be higher. Now we have a stronger group of six to eight throwers now regularly throw 87-plus.

"I've trained hard and I believe I'm getting close to my 90-metre target," he added.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Christian Radnedge)

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