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India missing professionalism, Olympic medal a distant dream: Anju Bobby George

Former long jumper Anju Bobby George, who is now a government observer for track and field, believes the country needs a good professional management system to bring out the best in its athletes.

other sports Updated: Mar 02, 2018 16:19 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Anju Bobby George,Commonwealth Games,Asian Games
Former long jumper Anju Bobby George believes the country needs a good professional management system to bring out the best in its athletes. (PTI)

It’s been more than a decade since an Indian had a podium finish at the World Athletics Championships. In 2003, long jumper Anju Bobby George became the first Indian athlete to win bronze at the Worlds in Paris.

She still holds the national record of 6.83m set in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, where she finished fifth.

With two major competitions— Commonwealth Games in April and Asian Games in August— scheduled this season, the focus is back on the top athletes.

Anju, who after calling it quits has become a government observer for track and field, spoke on a wide range of issues, including the lack of progress made in her event.

Excerpts:

What do you think about the current crop of long jumpers in the country?

Neena Varakil and Nayana James look good. They’ve claimed silver and bronze at the 2017 Asian Championships. But to excel at the world level, they should perform consistently.

Good performances of 6.50 metres and above consistently internationally will brighten their chances. Otherwise, medals at the Worlds or Olympics are not possible.

Back in early 2000, athletes were struggling for funds but overall their performance was better. What are your views?

It was a difficult phase not just for me but for all. In my case, I preferred to compete abroad. Initially, I faltered as I found it difficult to get the right rhythm because of pressure. Gradually, I got accustomed to top-notch competition.

There were people to manage my international tours. It helped me become mentally stronger and I won medals at the 2003 World Championships and World Athletics Finals in 2005.

Is the coaching system to be blamed for sub-par performances?

A good management system is missing. Due to lack of professionalism, the results are average. There has to be a team of experts comprising doctors, recovery experts and managers working towards a common goal.

Funds aren’t a big issue these days; the government is supporting athletes at the junior level, which is good. But the vision is missing.

How important is the 2018 season?

It will be a good time to evaluate performances, and examine the strengths and weaknesses. Next year is also important as we have the World Championships. Good performances in a pre-Olympic year add to the confidence.

What are the issues you think hamper the progress of potential athletes in their formative years?

Doping is one of them. A big number of youngsters are taking shortcut to fame; it’s worrying. Overage is another issue eroding the foundation at the grassroots. Also, potential athletes aren’t getting the right kind of foreign exposure required to graduate to the senior level.

First Published: Mar 02, 2018 16:09 IST