How the COVID-19 crisis in India delayed javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s return to competitions

Neeraj Chopra

Indian javelin throwing ace Neeraj Chopra, who is destined to represent his country at the Tokyo Olympics this year, was slated to return to competition prior to the grand quadrennial event in Europe. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis in the country has caused it some delay.

The 2018 Asian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist was supposed to break his more than a year long hiatus away from track and field through his training-cum-competition stint in Europe.

The 23-year-old, who is a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Indian Army, was last seen in action back in March last year after clinching his Olympics berth, was ready to board his flight to France to prepare for Tokyo.

However, due to the rise of COVID-19 second wave in India, Chopra cannot just fly to France yet, as he will be required to have an internal authorisation letter issued by French Interior Ministry before he can travel to the country, an official statement from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) confirmed on Wednesday.

”Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s travel plans to France has been delayed by few days as India is currently placed as a high-risk country with COVID-19 infection and thus a person travelling to France requires an internal authorisation letter (Laissez-passer) issued by French Interior Ministry to travel,” the Sports Authority of India (SAI), said in a statement on Wednesday.

The authorisation letter is an additional green light over visa to enter the French territories, which will be causing Chopra delay of a few days to commence his training-cum-competition stint.

“Even though Neeraj and his team got their visa on Friday, he is yet to get the above-mentioned authorisation letter. Accordingly, his travel plans have been rescheduled and SAI is in regular touch with officials of MEA, who are further pursuing the matter with the Indian Embassy in Paris. The required authorisation letter by the French interior ministry is expected soon,” the statement further added.

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