New Delhi: 39 years, only 1 medal for India, and that by legendary field athlete Anju Bobby George. She still remains the first and the only Indian to achieve that milestone at the World Athletics Championships.
George’s long jump effort resulted in bronze at the 2003 World Championships and made her India’s first and only athlete, till now, to earn a medal at the event. Anju’s 6.70m jump was enough to top Great Britain’s Jade Johnson, who had jumped a distance of 6.63m.
George’s life has always been a struggle. The bronze medalist was born with a single kidney. This fact did not prevent her from achieving greatness.
In 2003, Anju’s coaches, including husband-turned-coach Robert Bobby George, started preparing her for the Worlds. On the other side, the over-exertion only made things worse for the athlete.
“I was broken. The world championships was something that I was preparing for after missing out on the Sydney Olympics and I could barely walk. My body had swollen up like a ball,” George has said in media conversation.
Robert decided to take his wife on a holiday to Paris. Still unsure whether her Worlds dream was on, a confused Anju took the bait and roamed around the city of love like a tourist. Coach Robert would ask George to go for the odd jogging session now and again, which puzzled her. It was later when Anju got to know that this was all a distraction for her recovery.
Robert’s plan worked flawlessly but when it came to the finals, there were more problems than she had to jump over to snatch that medal.
After starting with an impressive 6.61m, she registered two fouls, bringing her down in the standings. Jade Johnson of Great Britain nudged past her to go ahead. Hope was still not lost for George as before the fifth attempt, many athletes had noticed the absence of check marks, which are crucial for the jumpers to time and pace their strides.
This invoked fear into many of the women including George. Former champion, Fiona May was the first victim of this, who eventually got eliminated after her fifth attempt got red-flagged. Anju Bobby George somehow managed to register her final attempt, which she thought wasn’t good enough for a medal. Jade Johnson’s miss-timed jump meant George’s dream had come true and she had become India’s first athlete to ever win a medal at the championships.
Neeraj Chopra has already ended a medal wait in Stockholm by winning silver in a recently concluded tournament. The last Indian medalist of the Stockholm Diamond League was Anju Bobby George and she is waiting for the golden boy to send the javelin flying for another historic gold medal.