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Leaping to glory

Kerala's top athlete speaks about life outside the sports arena.



RAISING THE BAR: Back in Kerala, Anju with her family.

HEADS turned as the six-foot-tall Anju Bobby George entered the room in a magenta sari. Her smile outshone the diamonds on her ears and fingers as she acknowledged her fans. The bronze medallist of the World athletics championship has earned a special place in the hearts of thousands of Keralites and the adulation is evident on their faces as they take a closer look at an athlete who has made it to the top six in the world.

Anju took a break to speak to the Metro Plus about things other than sports.

Athens

I knew I could do it. It was not a mere dream. There may have been many sceptics but I was confident that I could do it and so I aimed for the gold. Things just did not go my way on that particular day. If only the event was held a day earlier... Even in Paris, many of my friends in the media and other athletes found it difficult to believe that I had won a World championship medal. A few thought that I was trying to pull their leg.

Diet and health

It is tough. Bobby keeps a close eye on my diet. For the last one month I have been eating all that I want. My favourite food is Chicken Biriyani. We have a joke that athletes have a European breakfast, an American lunch and a `nadan' (ethnic) dinner. Breakfast is invariably salami, sausages and the white of eggs. I make that on the microwave. Lunch is boiled chicken and dinner consists of Chapatis and chicken again. As I am allergic to dust, I have to be very careful. I do not drink even a glass of water when I travel and depend on mineral water.

Travels

My favourite place is Monaco and then Sweden. Monaco is breathtakingly beautiful. Food is not usually a problem since we are put up in the best of places. But in Singapore, Bobby and I had to go without food. As we came in for dinner, there was raw liver, meat, noodles, oysters and bits of fish.

As we wondered how we could eat it, we saw the others piling up their plates and then cooking the concoction on small `sigri' on their tables.

Another bad occasion was in France. We were hungrily biting into a steak when suddenly my mouth was filled with blood!

When cupid struck

Bobby and I met in 1996. He was by then a national champion (triple jump).

But it was not love at first sight. We continued to meet at camps and it is difficult to say when it was that we fell in love. Perhaps, you should ask Bobby (she laughs). We were married in 2000.

Husband and coach

Bobby is a taskmaster and he is a great coach. I think you need a special ability to teach. He comes from a family of sportspersons and that has helped me a lot.

Otherwise my track record would have come to a cul de sac. Sports is in their blood. Bobby and I are busy with my meets, practice sessions and so on. We only disagree when we talk about where we should settle down in the future. Bobby would like to stay in Bangalore. I would like to stay somewhere in Kerala. I am fond of waterfronts. Bobby says that he would choose a place in Kannur if he had to stay in Kerala as he hails from Peravur.

Hobbies

I read almost anything I can lay my hands on. Nothing heavy, just light stuff.

When I am in India, I am glued to the television. I prefer comedy and family dramas to action movies.

Prayers

I believe in the powers of prayers and meditation.

As a child...

My parents were the ones who motivated me and constantly encouraged me to be a sportsperson. My father, K.T. Markose, and mother, Gracy Markose, were keen on making me a sportsperson. I don't know why. Perhaps they were fulfilling their ambition through me.

Memory lane

My father used to wake me up at 5.30 a.m., give me a hardboiled egg and then take me to the ground near the NSS college in Chaganassery. I would be sleeping on the scooter by the time we reached the ground. I was terribly lazy, but my parents kept pushing me. My mother or father would read the papers and take me to various competitions in and around our place.

When I started with the State team, either my mother or my father used to accompany me. However, my mother was very strict. She was particular that my academics should not suffer.

In fact, my mother was disappointed when I was unable to take second group for my pre degree. Vimala College in Thrissur had only commerce and so I was forced to choose that.

Sports and studies

It is wrong to say that sports consume the time for studies. It is escapism. I know so many sportspersons who are doctors, engineers and managers.

On the contrary, sports helps you to concentrate and improves your grasping power. When we were in college, the sisters there used to tell our friends: Don't try to ape these sports students. They laze around and walk off with the top marks at the last minute."

Future

Yes, I would like to have children. I don't know if I will coach my kids the way my parents did.

Perhaps I would leave that to Bobby. As an athlete... I don't know. Let us see how things work out. I will keep doing my best. I have confidence in me.

SARASWATHY NAGARAJAN

Photo: S. Mahinsha

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