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I went all out for a medal: Anju George

Rajeev D Pai | August 31, 2003

August 30 is a date of immense significance for 39-year-old world long jump record holder Mike Powell.

It was on this date at the World Athletics Championships in Tokyo in 1991 that the lanky American had achieved the 'impossible', smashing the record of 8.90m set by the legendary Bob Beamon in the rarefied atmosphere of Mexico City in 1968.

Wish Anju George | Images

Twelve years later, Powell had even more reason to rejoice on this date, as his pupil Anju Bobby George achieved another 'impossible' dream, becoming the first Indian athlete ever to win a medal at the World Athletics Championships.


On a cold and wet Saturday evening at Saint Denis near Paris, Anju George clinched the bronze medal in the women's long jump event with her fifth attempt, a season's best of 6.70m, just 4cm off her personal best.

The achievement made Anju so happy that even six hours later she just couldn't stop giggling. "Very happy, I am very happy. Can't express in words," the excited Anju George told on telephone from Paris early this morning (0045 Paris time).

Recounting the day's events, the athlete from Kerala said that as soon as she had registered 6.61m on her first attempt, she was confident of making the last eight. Thereafter she went "all out for a medal", but only ended up fouling her next two attempts, overstepping the takeoff board.

She then corrected herself on her fourth attempt and took off from a little further back to ensure that she did not foul three successive attempts, which results in a disqualification. That effort measured 6.56m.

Everything then fell into place for her in her fifth attempt, and the result, 6.70m, was good enough to give her the bronze.

By then, however, Anju was tiring and couldn't push hard enough on the sixth and final jump, coming up with just 6.62m.

Anju's husband and coach Bobby George told that he was confident from the beginning that she could win a medal, but "I kept it a secret, I did not tell anyone." But when she got a good opening jump to lead the field in the opening round, he was sure that his belief in her would be vindicated.

Bobby George, who has been touring with his wife, said this year's European circuit gave her a wealth of experience that helped in the World Championships.

Anju had finished sixth in the IAAF Super Grand Prix Series in Madrid, Spain, in July and then won the silver medal at the Super Grand Prix in Stockholm, Sweden, in the first week of August.

Thereafter she finished a disappointing tenth at the ISTAF Golden League Athletic Meet in Berlin, Germany, but Bobby put that down to exhaustion. The two-week break between Berlin and the World Championships helped her recover, he said.

Bobby said that as the Championships approached, he worked more on Anju's mental preparation, trying to make her believe that she could do it, that she is among the top six jumpers in the world. And once she had qualified for the final, he said laughing, he began working to get her to believe that she is among the top three.

According to him, Anju's third jump, which was adjudged a foul, was a huge one, and would probably have been in the range of 6.80m, a distance she has never achieved before. "From where we were sitting, it looked to be a good jump," he said. But the officials at the pit, who obviously had a better view, thought otherwise.

The weather, though it was cold and wet, also helped Anju to an extent, Bobby said. It rained most of Friday in Saint Denis, and even on Saturday morning it was drizzling, he said. While the cold wasn't exactly to Anju's liking, and caused problems while warming up on both Friday and Saturday, the rain upset the other athletes as well. "We expected this weather in advance," he said, laughing again. "We have experience in the rain. So I told her, this is your chance."

Bobby George said Mike Powell, who was also at the Stade de France watching the competition, was very pleased with the performance of his two students on show, Anju and Hussein Taher al-Sabee of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who surprised many by finishing fifth in the men's event with a jump of 8.10m.

Asked what she had learnt from Powell, Anju said the training methods of her husband and the world record holder were quite similar, but Powell had got her to improve her runway technique.

Also see:
Anju George bags Asian Games long jump gold

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