Will Anju realise her dream?
OLYMPIC GAMES / The long jumper is not lacking in optimism
— File photo
TO BEIJING WITH HOPE: Anju George’s best this season has been 6.55 metres but she has the ability to raise her performance.
Her best this season has been 6.55 metres, recorded in three different meets. She has not crossed 6.70 since 2005. She is way down in the season’s lists.
Yet, if we have picked Anju George to be part of an ‘India focus’ feature in the Beijing Olympics, it is not just because of the optimism that Anju generates but also because of her ability to raise her level of performance in big meets.
“I have always performed better in major championships even when my results might have been below par in the rest of the contests in a particular year,” Anju said recently.
Osaka was an exception
“Barring a couple of occasions, Anju has invariably finished among the top six in major international events,” points out husband and coach Bobby George.
One of the exceptions was the World championships in Osaka last year when she ended ninth with 6.53.
Both Anju and Bobby are wary of talking about her chances in Beijing; what distance she would be aiming for and what she could be capable of.
“I want to make Beijing the most memorable moment of my life,” says Anju; Bobby echoes her sentiments. The one medal missing in her impressive collection is an Olympic medal, which no Indian athlete has ever won.
Since winning the silver in the World athletics final in Monaco, Anju has not won a major medal. From a high of 6.83m in the Athens Olympics, she came down to 6.75 in Monaco and since then had 6.54 and 6.65 as her best for 2006 and 2007.
Plummets in ranking
Obviously, her ranking has plummeted, though she is still a decent 16th in the world (unofficial rankings up to July 21), the highest ranked Indian athlete, male or female.
With the slide in rankings, opportunities to compete at the highest level have also decreased. Anju says her parameters right now are better than any time in the past, though a big jump has eluded her through the season.
If you were to buttress Anju’s argument of producing her best when the occasion comes, you will notice that in 2003 she had just one jump over 6.60 before going onto win the bronze in the Paris World championships with 6.70.
In 2004 she did a 6.66 at home (best of 6.62 abroad) before reaching a National record of 6.83 on her opening jump in the Olympics final.
She again jumped a season best of 6.75 in the 2005 World athletics final.
“This year the performances are lower; the Russians are far below their normal standards,” says Anju.
Portuguese Naide Gomes (7.12), Brazilian Maurren Higa Maggi (6.99) and American Britney Reese (6.95) lead the season’s lists.
Russians Tatyana Lebedeva, the defending champion, who has only a 6.88 this season, and Athens Games bronze medallist Tatyana Kotova, with 6.86, come well behind, but they are big-meet jumpers.
Anju’s 6.55 looks modest in comparison to the leading marks. Yet, optimism is not lacking in the Georges camp.
Hindu On Net