Anju Bobby George

When Anju Bobby George enters an athletic arena these days, millions of Indian minds stay alert in anticipation around the world. Gold? Silver? Bronze? As the long jump champion battles it out with the best in the business on the global stage, the questions keep coming.

Blame it on Anju’s impressive performances, or more specifically, on one jump that pitchforked her into the limelight and also into the consciousness of the lay man. For the athletics fan, Anju was no unfamiliar name, but on that warm August evening in Paris, Anju transcended the confines of her sport and walked into the common platform that national sport heroes occupy.

It was the 2003 World Championships, and Anju with a fine jump of 6.70 metres in the penultimate round, clinched the bronze, India’s first athletic medal on the global stage. For a nation so short of sporting glory at the world level, it was a moment celebrated and feted in proper measure, with Anju’s every move from then on attracting attention.

Just as a long jump event is never a contest of one jump, Anju’s wasn’t a one-off performance. She had reached that stage step by step, suffering along the way, making sacrifices aplenty and putting in tons of hard work, like every champion performer.

Anju’s journey started in Changanassery, Kerala, where she was born on April 19, 1977 to K T Markose and Gracy Markose. She was initiated into sports by her father and she received early training from Mr P V Welsey at St Anne’s School and Mr K P Thomas, a noted coach, in Koruthode School, which has produced a clutch of athletes over the years.

Anju’s promise was evident early and as she moved up academically, she kept winning laurels. Standing out was her performance in the 1991-92 State schools meet, where she won the 100M hurdles and finished second in the long jump and high jump events. Later, at the Vimala College in Thrissur, Anju came under

T P Ouseph and E.J George, their guidance helped her to become the Calicut University champion.

Around the same time, Anju had started to make her mark at the National level, topping the South Zone junior meet and winning the triple jump at the Federation Cup in Pune in 1996. But the real turning point in her life and career arrived when she came into contact with Robert Bobby George, who was a national triple jump champion.

Bobby, the younger brother of Indian volleyball legend Jimmy George, started training Anju, realising her potential to be a world level athlete. Progress was spectacular since then as Anju left the competition at the national level way behind. Records in long jump and triple jump were under her belt but injuries were a major concern with Anju forced to miss the 2000 Olympic Games as well as the 2001 World Championships due to a dodgy ankle.

Once the injuries were put behind though, Anju was a major threat at the world level, with Bobby, whom she married in 2000, being the major support. At the 2002 Commonwealth Games, she clinched the bronze with a leap of 6.49 metres and in the same year, proved she was the best in the continent, topping the Asian Games field in Busan, South Korea with a 6.53M jump. A stint with former world champion Mike Powell in the United States was timely and by the time the Paris World Championships came along, Anju was in the elite list of jumpers in the world.

With the World bronze in her bag, Anju next targetted the Olympic Games, at Athens in 2004. But an untimely bout of illness hampered her and despite a national record breaking leap of 6.83 metres, she had to be content with the sixth place. Battling illness, Anju recovered late in the 2005 season, missing out on a medal at the Helsinki World Championships, where she finished fifth with a 6.66M jump. But consolation came soon enough, with the Indian ace topping the Asian Championships at Incheon, Korea, at 6.65 metres and winning the silver at the World Athletics Finals at Monaco with a superb effort of 6.75M.

A busy 2006 season awaits Anju. She started it off with a silver at the Asian indoor meet in Pattya, Thailand, with a 6.32M jump in a far from perfect arena. The indoor World Championships in Moscow and the Commonwealth Games are the next targets for the Indian, with millions hoping and praying for her success.


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