Onus on Anju to salvage Indian athletics prestige

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Beijing, Aug 18 (UNI) With nine athletes giving below par performances and falling by the wayside, onus is on Long Jumper Anju George to salvage Indian athletics prestige in the Olympic Games here tomorrow.

Once again, India will be looking forward to Anju George to bail it out in athletics. She had recorded an opening jump of 6.83 metres in Athens, but could not go beyond that, finishing sixth. That mark has remained the national record. That was easily the best year for the jumper.

The Indian hasn't had a great season after that though she won the silver medal at the World Athletics Final in 2005. Subsequent years proved rather ordinary, with just a ninth place in the World Championships last year in Osaka.

This year, the Chennai based Custom officer has not gone past 6.55 metres, a mark she recorded at three different meets. Both Anju and husband-coach Bobby George are, however, confident.

A place in the final is not being viewed as a tough task and Anju hopes that she would make this the ''most memorable moment'' of her career.

This is easier said than done. The season's list is headed by Portuguese Naide Gomes (7.12) with Brazilian Maurren Higa Maggi (6.99) and American Britney Reese (6.95) following. The Russians, defending champion Tatyana Lebedeva (6.88) and Athens bronze winner Tatyana Kotova (6.86) should still be strong contenders for medals.

Anju will probably need more than 6.60 metres to qualify, though women's long jumping standards this year have remained rather low, giving some hope to the Indian star. A medal from her will be a big surprise but a good showing will be hugely welcomed.

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