Each time Anju Bobby George started her run to the pit at Athens in 2004, the nation jumped with her. Her jump of 6.83 metres may not have been good enough for a medal but it was enough to make her the poster girl of Indian athletics.
This is what the Tribune had to say about her on the eve of the Olympics: “For a Syrian Christian girl from the remote village of Cheeranchira in Kottayam district of Kerala, an Olympic gold was farthest from her dream when she took to athletics at school, at the prodding of her businessman father K.T. Markose. She had the height, the stride and the stamina to become a long jumper of promise, but nobody told her that she was an Olympic medal prospect, not even Markose.”
It went on to suggest: “Anju has shed gallons of tears and sweat to prepare for Athens Olympics 2004. She has been toiling with the one-pointed aim of striking gold at Athens.”
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When you note that she was doing so with one kidney, we are all left with a sense of awe. It was with one kidney that she won a world championship medal, the first Indian before Neeraj Chopra replicated the feat in 2022.
Coming from the great tradition of women’s athletics in Kerala, Anju was the first Indian long-jumper to win gold at the Asiad, to land a Commonwealth bronze, and then the first Indian of any sex to win a World Championship medal in 2003. Her emergence as a star was symbolic of a new resurgence, a sense that Indians could compete in the athletics track – in events that they had never competed in before.
Now she is giving back to her sport by coaching the next generation in her academy in Bengaluru. Anju was there at the Trailblazers conclave in 2023 and it is with real pleasure that we are looking forward to welcoming her back in 2024.
Also Read: Saurav Ghosal – The Ageless Champion