The veteran coach, who trained two-time World Championship bronze medallist Boris Henry during his two-decade long stint from 1990 at the Olympic Training Centre in Germany, said Chopra went into the Games high on confidence.
“His (Neeraj’s) confidence was due to his fine performances prior to the Olympics and his mental freshness. Not being exhausted by many competitions, helped him stay focused,” Bartonietz told TOI in an interview, from his native Oberschlettenbach village in Western Germany.
Looking back at the intense training that propelled Chopra to Olympic glory in the Japanese capital, the coach said that he didn’t impose any restrictions on his ward.
“I don’t remember any special episodes from the training days. At the NIS (Patiala), it was everyday work,” Bartonietz said.
“No restrictions from my side. Only some self-restrictions of Neeraj like no alcohol, no smoking…meaning following a healthy lifestyle.”
Asked what Neeraj missed most, the German added: “Probably his big family.”
Bartonietz said the elbow injury didn’t trouble Neeraj after January last year.
“It may have troubled him (Neeraj) before and after the surgery but no more after training resumed in December 2019-January 2020 period. When he threw 87.86m at Potchefstroom (Jan, 2020) he was back to his ‘old’ performance level.”
Bartonietz said he was surprised to see Vetter crumble when it mattered the most on August 7.
“Yes, it was surprising. Everybody thought Vetter would become Olympic champion as he was throwing over 90m from April to June. His last two competitions were below the 90m level,” Klaus said.
However, the German said the Indian camp didn’t have any information about Vetter’s training or drop in his performance before the Tokyo Olympics.
Asked how he began training Chopra, Bartonietz said: “No (it was not Neeraj who came to me.) Dr (Lalit) Bhanot and chief coach Radhakrishnan (Nair) asked me whether I would be able to coach Neeraj.”
Explaining his thoughts on developing world-class athletes in India, Bartonietz, who did his PhD from Moscow in 1975, said: “A children and youth programme has to be developed under the AFI-umbrella. The training process to shape a world-class athlete starts at 10-12 years of age. Until this age, basic training of running, sprinting, jumping, throwing is required. As far as I know, such a process has been initiated by AFI.”
Coach sets 90m target
Asked how tough it would be for Chopra to dominate the sport as he is yet to crack the 90m mark, Bartonietz said: “(The aim is) to crack the 90m (mark). Hopefully, before or during the beginning of the (next season’s) competition period.”
The coach, who is set to return to India after a break, said the young Indian champion has won a lot of fans in Germany.
“In the world of German athletics, (Neeraj) is very popular.”