Neeraj Chopra’s historic gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics – India’s first-ever in Athletics – has sent the country into a frenzy over this once overweight kid from Panipat, and two days after his monumental feat, Chopra will be returning to India as a hero. And he hopes to celebrate this win with his friends and family and have his favourite, Choorma. Ever since his stellar show in Tokyo, Chopra has had no respite from media obligations, but basking in the glory, he is happy with all the attention he is getting. CNN-News18’s Shreya Dhoundial caught up with the man of the hour as he talked about the excitement of winning the gold medal, the pride of representing the country and his plans once he reaches India.
Many many congratulations to you. Have you got any sleep after winning the medal?
Thank you. Slept for around 2.5 hours on my way back. Returned home very late after the competition last night. Couldn’t sleep much.
Is it because of the excitement of winning the medal or you’ve been receiving too many calls from India?
No, there is excitement…
You must have done many interviews by now?
This is just excitement. This is also a very joyous moment for the country. So, many interviews are coming. It becomes difficult at times. I will just rest after eating something.
So, tell me who would you like to meet first when you land home? What do you want to do when you get home?
I don’t know who is going to be there. Probably somebody from my home. My friends were insisting on coming. Everyone will be happy.
Who do you want to see the most? Your parents? This is a win for the country, so your parents should be the ones to meet you first.
Yes, absolutely, I live in a joint family. Everyone has equal rights. I will very happy to see my family. I won the medal due to the blessings of the entire country. You all are also there with me in my happiness.
Yes, we are right there with you. Trust me the entire country would have visited you in Tokyo as you have made us proud. But, that won’t be possible. Tell me, athletes miss their home food while staying away from home. What did you miss and what would you like to have when you get home?
I am from Haryana and we have our desi food called ‘Choorma’, I will eat it first when I get back. I don’t miss home food that much. But, I like my home food.
Did you try the Sushi in Tokyo?
No, I haven’t tried anything before the competition. I couldn’t take the risk of falling sick.
Neeraj, tell me one thing. There is a stereotype about Haryana boys that they are very ‘hothead’. I have seen your throws and you were calm after each of them. How did you manage to remain so calm? You were also calm when you went up to the podium to receive the medal. Is that your temperament? Did you train yourself like that? What is it?
No, there is nothing like that. I was very aggressive when I was throwing the javelin. I was also very aggressive when I went up to the podium. It is necessary to remain calm at times, but, I show my aggression during my game.
When you were up there in the podium, our national anthem was being played. Were there tears in your eyes? Because as Indians we get sentimental when our national anthem is played in such occasions.
No, there weren’t tears, but, I was very passionate.
After you won, a video clip went viral on twitter where you were seen folding the Tricolour precisely after your victory lap. Is this your training or is it your love for the nation and the flag?
Our tricolour got us here and it is very important to respect it. Keeping my flag with respect doesn’t come from training, it is within us.
Tell us one thing, when you were on your way to Tokyo, you already had this in mind that you will win Gold. You had immense confidence in yourself. Tell us about it?
I was totally focused on my performance. I didn’t think anything at all. I just thought that I have to give my best. I played with all my heart and won gold. Happy for that.
I would like to ask you another question which you may have been asked many times. Has the moment sunk in yet or are you still in that zone?
No, I am still in that zone. It will be over when I reach India.
I was listening to your mother, there are celebrations going on in your village. Your parents said that entire nation will celebrate this. Did you get the chance to celebrate in Tokyo?
No, I didn’t get the chance to celebrate much. I will celebrate once I get home. I’ve been giving out interviews only.
I know that you are troubled by all these interviews. I can say that.
Nothing like that.
Subedar Neeraj Chopra, your platoon – The Rajputana Rifles saw each and every throw of yours. Tell me about them? Are you connected with them? Because as per I know, you are always busy in your training.
I will meet them when I go back. They are always supportive. They are always happy whenever I play and win any medal.
Before reaching Tokyo did you speak to Arshad? Did he congratulate you? Are you sad that Pakistan weren’t there to win any medals? — Because medals for India and Pakistan would have made Asia proud.
There are very few countries representing Asia in here. It would have been nice if he would have won something. But, it is unfortunate. Good thing is that I won gold and I want to keep performing this.
Last question because I know you are getting late for your meal. We all read your story in the newspapers. You were overweight at the age of 12 -13. Then your father sent you to gym. Today, many kids are taking you as an inspiration. Your message to them?
I would like to tell them to work hard and play the games which you like. Work hard with all your dedication and you can achieve anything.
How many more days will you sleep with the Gold medal?
I will wear it for few more days after reaching home.
Congratulations to your coach and your team.