Anju Bobby George says Indian athletes must compete, not just train


Anju Bobby George

Anju Bobby George, the lissome lass from Kerala who caused much excitement on the 40- meter long jump runway, the takeoff board, and the landing pit, and brought cheer to Indian track and field aficionados in the New Millennium years is bitter these days.

On the eve of the athletics competitions of the Tokyo Olympics, the 44-year-old did not mince words fielding questions at the SONY Piçtures arranged remote media interaction. She pin-pointed and articulated the reasons for the Indian athletes ' dismal showing in the World-class events, reluctance to compete in international competitions leading to the Olympics and other major events.

An Executive Council member of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) that administers the sport in the country, Anju said that Indian athletes are in a better position these days and that they get everything. The athletes are getting a lot of support from the federation, SAI, and the sports ministry. The athletes can go abroad, and train anywhere. They want to train but taking part in competitions is also important. That is the reason they are not able to perform. when needed. After a certain level of training, the foreign athletes are in competitions like the Grand Prix and gaining experience, but the Indian athletes are lacking in this aspect. They have to learn this part. Simply training and taking part in one competition is not enough.

"It’s easy for our athletes to get into Grand Prix competitions, but most of them only believe in training, and not the competitions. This is where they are missing out and that’s why they cannot give their best performances," she added.

A remarkable athlete who competed with the world's best with a single kidney, Anju cited her example by saying: " I did 16 competitions before the Athens Olympics. I had that much exposure and experience. There was no one in India to compete with me. So I had to compete abroad. We need a bunch of athletes (for particular events). We are training, running fast, jumping, and throwing. We have to show all this in competitions. We are not, and our athletes are miserably failing."

When asked to comment on the American practice of choosing the athletes for the Olympics at multi-day trials held one before the quadrennial event, Anju explained: " The Americans have the best of the best athletes. They take part in Grand Prix events. That's the reason, they hold the trials one month before the Olympics. Their athletes must compete in the trials and show their talent. They peak closer to the big competition. They have to perform at their best in the trials. We (India) can also adopt that."

Anju said she would like to see the 100m events, especially Jamaican, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. She believes India's javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra who is World No. 4 can be put in the medal bracket and that the women discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur could get into the top six. "The Olympics are tough and the ultimate," said Anju.

Talking about short sprinter Dutee Chand's chances, Anju said: " She will find it difficult because sprint events are the toughest. If she can do her best, then she can make it to the second round. In the 4x400m mixed relay, our men’s team is doing well, but the women are a bit down performance-wise. But there are only 16 teams in the fray, so there is a chance that they will make it to the next round, but they have to fight very hard. If they achieve personal bests, it will be good."

Anju also touched upon the confusion regarding Murali Sreeshankar's fitness. The long jumper had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with an 8.26m effort in the Federation Cup in Patiala. But the AFI was startled by his 7.48m and 7.33m results during the fitness trial. "They have to be at their peak ten days before the event. Withdrawing someone at the last moment is not a good idea and that’s why the AFI included his name in the final list. I believe he can do better at the Olympics. But definitely, these sorts of things will put the athlete under pressure. I think he can overcome all that and do a good job.

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