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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Anju Bobby George: Shining jewel in Indian athletics

This athlete has kept the tricolour flying high. The bronze medal she won at the World Athletics Championship in 2003 made her the only Indian to win a medal at that level.

inspiring-lives Updated: Nov 06, 2019 19:11 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Anju Bobby George made history at the 2003 World Athletics Championships in Paris when she won the long jump bronze medal with a leap of 6.70m, making her the first and only Indian athlete to win a medal at that level.
Anju Bobby George made history at the 2003 World Athletics Championships in Paris when she won the long jump bronze medal with a leap of 6.70m, making her the first and only Indian athlete to win a medal at that level.(ILLUSTRATION: Rushikesh Tulshiram Gophane)
         

Born on April 19, 1977, to KT Markose and Gracy in a suburb of the Changanassery town in the Kottayam district of Kerala, it her father who initiated Anju into athletics. Apart from being supportive in her endeavour, he prompted her to consider it as a career and encouraged her to do better. She honed her skills further and in 1991-92 won the 100m hurdles and the relay and stood second in the long and high jumps and was declared the champion. Soon after, her immense potential came to the fore at the National School Games in which she was placed third in the 100 metre hurdles and 4 x 100m relay. Sustaining her interest and building upon it during the undergraduate stage, she emerged as the champion athlete of Calicut University when she was a student at Vimala College. The turning point in Anju’s life came after her marriage to her fellow athlete Bobby George who encouraged her.

Career

Anju initially took up the gruelling heptathlon. Later, she shifted her focus to jumps and made her mark at the Junior Asian Championship in Delhi in 1996. Three years later, she set a national triple jump record during the Federation Cup in Bangalore and won a silver medal during the South Asian Federation Games in Nepal.

Rise to fame

She improved her own long jump record to 6.74m, her best in the National Circuit Meet at Thiruvananthapuram in 2001. She won the bronze medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games at Manchester, clearing 6.49m. She also won the gold medal at the Busan Asian Games. Anju made history at the 2003 World Athletics Championships in Paris when she won the long jump bronze medal with a leap of 6.70m, making her the first and only Indian athlete to win a medal at that level. She won a gold medal in the 2003 Afro-Asian Games. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, she finished fifth in the final, having established a national record of 6.83m. In the 2005 World Athletics final in Monaco, she won the gold clearing 6.75m to cap one of the finest sequences of performances by an Indian athlete. Anju also won a long jump silver medal in the 15th Asian Games in 2006. In 2007, she grabbed a silver medal in the 17th Asian Athletics Championship in Amman, Jordan. She won with a jump of 6.65 metres which enabled her to qualify for the Osaka World Championship in 2007 where she finished 9th. In 2008, she won the silver medal in the 3rd Asian Indoor Championship in Doha with a jump of 6.38m and improved her distance to 6.50m to win gold in the third South Asian Athletics Championship in Kochi in Kerala. She also contested in the 2008 Beijing Olympics but failed to qualify for the long jump after committing fouls in all her three attempts. She pulled out of the 52nd national interstate athletics in Hyderabad due to upper respiratory tract infection. She decided to retire.

Awards

Anju’s sterling performances earned her the Arjuna award for 2002-2003. In 2003, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna was conferred on her for the historic medal she won at the World Athletics Championship and in 2004 she went on to receive the Padma Shri.

INTERESTING FACTS

1. She proved her mettle at school-level competitions. At the school athletic meet in 1991-92, she won the 100m hurdles and relay and stood second in long jump and high jump events becoming a champion.

2. Anju’s journey to success from rank 61 in 2001 to rank 6 in 2003 is one of sheer hard work. The credit goes to husband-cum-coach, Robert Bobby George whom she considers the biggest influence in her life.

3. Her foundation, the Anju Bobby Sports Foundation provides financial and infrastructural support to underprivileged children. The Union Sports Ministry recently sanctioned ₹5 crore to her athletics academy.

4. Anju worked as the President of the Kerala State Sports Council earlier. Now she is the chairperson of Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), an initiative that trains and supports promising young athletes.

5. Both Anju and Bobby George work in the customs department of The Central Board of Indirect taxes and Customs (CBIC). The couple lives in Chennai and have a son, Aaron and a daughter, Andrea.

SOURCES: Wikipedia, kreedon.com