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P T Usha

Creditable performance by Anju

August 29, 2004

When Anju Bobby George cleared her first jump in the long jump final in Athens on Friday, I could never imagine that it would end in such disappointment for Indian fans. It was a superb jump, technically correct and a perfect rhythm written large in every step of it. Anju distanced a fluent 6.83m, breaking her own national mark to pieces.

Unlike the first few days, there was a big crowd at the Olympic Stadium on Friday. It took me quite some time before I could manage a seat in the front row. I finally settled myself and waited for Anju to do even better in her next five jumps.

But then, it was not to be. Instead of peaking further, she suffered a slump and finally settled for the sixth place.

From the distance, I had a feeling that Anju was bit nervous after the first jump. Perhaps she came under immense pressure after watching the Russians clearing more than seven metres within no time.

Was Anju lacking in confidence? I don't know, but she was certainly not at her best after the first jump and lost her rhythm.

Given the showings of some other Indian athletes in this Olympics, I must say that at the end of the day, it was a highly creditable performance by Anju. It is never easy to finish sixth in a field where you have to compete with the best in the world. But, as I said before, it was necessary for her to clear something around seven metres to come into the medal bracket.

The problem was that as far as I knew, Anju had never made it even in the practice sessions. It took its toll. Her run-ups became faulty and jumps turned out to be poorer than her initial attempt.

However, at the end of the event, I was happy. Here is an Indian girl who did her best to stretch the imaginations of millions of Indians back home. Her efforts were not backed by superb infrastructure and training methods of the Americans or the Chinese, yet she single-handedly fought her way into the top flight of the world stage. Anju, my dear, I am proud of you.

In the last few days, many people asked me whether Anju would ever be able to clear seven metres. I think she can do it. She is technically sound and her body structure matches the best in the world. What she needs back at home at the moment is total support from the Government and other agencies. The focus should be on 'Mission Beijing', not the next Asian Games. Given the right support, I am sure, Anju will remain good enough to stake her claim for a medal in the next Olympics.

No one, I am afraid, will take my word seriously once this Olympics is over. Rather, the concerned authorities will raise hundreds of questions about Anju's ability to deliver. I know how sickening it can be since it happened to me also several times in my career.

My advice to Anju will be not to lose focus and continue working hard. Believe me, the results will come.

The International Olympic Committee this time is keeping a strict vigil on the athletes and leaving no stone unturned to eliminate the dope cheaters. In the 4x400m women's relay, I could see a person following our Chitra Suman even before the start of the race. The gentleman took Suman away immediately after the race for dope testing. Later I learned that while Suman was asked to give blood, Anju had to give a urine sample.

Nevertheless, the Indian women's quartet ran a splendid run to finish third in the heat and make the final. Rajender Kaur gave India a fine start with a run of 51.86sec. Beenamol kept up the momentum with 52.67, but Suman was not at her best. India were reduced to the sixth place when she finally handed over the baton to Manjit Kaur. I must congratulate Manjit for running a spectacular race, which took India to the third position. I only hope the girls repeat the performance and take India to a respectable position in the final.

Previous column: Sounds impossible, but Anju can do it

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