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I'm not done yet: Anju

Undeterred by her failure at the Olympics, Anju George gears up for the challenges ahead



The country's famous sports couple Bobby and Anju George — Pic: N. Balaji

THE FELICITATION function had just begun. An announcement went out that ace long jumper Anju George, one of the beneficiaries of the evening's function, and her husband Bobby were on their way from the airport. Yes, they had just flown in from Bangalore, which is their second home, thanks to the training facilities at the SAI centre.

As they walked in, heads turned to catch a glimpse of the country's famous sports couple. These are days of rest and relaxation after all the hectic schedules for the two — Anju, the recent recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, and Bobby, the Dhronacharya Award as the year's best coach.

The couple was the architect of another Olympic dream, just as enchanting as P. T. Usha's in her heyday.

Usha had missed a medal by a whisker in the Los Angeles Games in 1984, and two decades later in Athens, millions of Indians eagerly waited for that historic moment. "Will Anju be able to keep her promise of earning a medal?" was that fond hope. Alas, that was not to be. An Olympic medal in athletics continues to remain elusive but Anju does not believe that she is done yet.

Disappointing

"Yes, it was a big disappointment. All expectations sank that evening in Athens," she said, but quickly regained composure to add, "I have not lost hope."

About that fateful day when she briefly sent the aspirations of millions home soaring with a 6.83m jump for a starter, Anju said, "Having consistently crossed 7m in practice sessions, we had pegged our goal at 7.20m. I was not nervous but I am allergic to dust and that affected me and that's it. Nothing worked thereafter."

True, Anju had never crossed 7m in any competition till then and so reaching 6.83m (her best till date) itself was a big thing though overall she felt shattered initially.

But there were several of her family members, besides Bobby himself, around in Athens to provide that soothing touch. From home, her parents consoled her. "My mother knew after seeing my face on television that something was troubling me and decided that it would not be my day. To that extent they had prepared themselves well for the disappointment," she said.

Key inspiration

Bobby has been her key inspiration and it was his advice — "It is not the end of the world. We have to move on" — that revived her spirits.

There are promises to keep. Come December and the two will set out to Brunei or Australia to start training.

"We have an invitation from Brunei but are undecided yet. My aim is to do well in the World Championships in Helsinki in August 2005," Anju said and these were confident words from someone who had subsequently beaten Olympic champion Tatyana Lebedeva in a Yokohama track and field event in Japan.

"There is more to come from me," assured Anju, an official at the Chennai Customs, as she sets her sights on the challenges ahead.

"My prayer is only that my fitness should not desert me," she said, the tinge of pain after Athens unmistakable.

S. R. SURYANARAYAN

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