New Delhi: He has single-handedly raised the profile of Indian athletics internationally and Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra now wants the country to go a notch higher in the pecking order by hosting global events in the next two to three years.
India is set to bid for the 2029 World Athletics Championships but Chopra said the country can host other global competitions of a smaller scale before that.
"It will be good if we host 2029 World Championships but 2029 is a long way to go. I think India can host some big global competitions like Continental Tour event (of World Athletics) before that," Chopra told PTI in an interview felicitated by Switzerland Tourism.
"This kind of global event (like the Continental Tour event) will keep Indian fans interested in athletics. If international track and field stars come to India and compete against Indian athletes, it will be good for the country's athletes as well as for the fans," he opined.
Continental Tour is an annual series of track and field competitions held under the aegis of World Athletics. It forms the second tier of international one-day meetings after the Diamond League.
The reigning world champion said holding global events in India will also create awareness among fans. He also said that live telecasts or streaming of global events like Diamond League Meetings, especially where Indian athletes are competing, should be easily available for Indian fans.
Chopra, who is targetting a successful defence of his Olympic gold in the Paris Games this year, said he will start competing in May. That means, his pre-Olympic competition schedule will be of two months or a little over that. The Paris Games begin on July 26.
"I am yet to chalk out a final plan. Probably, we will do that in March. But most probably I will start the competition in May," he said.
The Doha leg of the Diamond League is scheduled for May 10 and he had started his season last year from the Qatar capital in the same prestigious competition.
The 26-year-old Chopra is currently in Switzerland for a "pre-planned" short vacation during which he has met tennis legend Roger Federer in Zurich. He will be returning to South Africa for training soon.
"It's a dream come true for me to meet Roger Federer in Zurich. I have always admired his skill, his spirit of true sportsmanship and his ability to inspire millions around the world," Chopra said about his meeting with Federer.
"What inspired me the most was his humility and his easy-going charm that made me feel so comfortable in his presence. We had a wonderful time exchanging notes about our respective passions and life's experiences on and off the field," said Chopra, who is Switzerland Tourism’s Friendship Ambassador to India.
Asked which aspects of his game he would work on before the Olympics, Chopra said, "I will work a bit on technique and then on strength.
"Also, I want to remain injury-free. In the past few years, there were small injuries which caused interruptions in my schedule. So, I have to also work on small exercises to save myself from injuries.
"There should not be any distractions because of that kind of small injury. I want to be fully fit and give my best in Paris. That is my focus," he signed off.