Big stage awaits Anju, all eyes will be on her tomorrow
Melbourne, Mar 21: Four years ago, Anju Bobby George was yet to make a mark in the highly competitive world of international athletics. Manchester proved a good stepping stone for the Kerala long jumper as she won the bronze in the Commonwealth Games there, leaping 6.49 metres.
The rest, as they say, is history. Again, history beckons Anju, the face of Indian athletics and a big stage awaits her as she prepares to jump before the huge crowd at the historic MCG here tomorrow.
The long jump final is scheduled for March 24.
After Mancheter, there was no looking back for the lanky jumper.
She went on to win the gold in the Asian Games that year and added the bronze in the World Athletics Championships in Paris next year, the first time an Indian had won an athletics medal at the world level.
Though the Athens Olympics proved a little disappointing, with Anju finishing sixth, she had the satisfaction of achieving a national record of 6.83 metres in the Greece capital.
Anju came to Melbourne as the highest ranked Commonwealth athlete in long jump. She in fact was ranked No. 4 for a long time before coming down by a place in this week's rankings.
Being the No. 1 in the Commonwealth family, Anju should have been the favourite here. However, her pre-meet form has not been very encouraging.
Hence a few doubts could come up, especially in view of the excellent form shown by Australian Bronwyn Thompson in recent weeks.
Thompson has jumped 6.91 metres this season. She was ahead of Anju at the Olympics, at fourth place, with 6.96 metres. The 28-year-old Australian has staged a remarkable comeback after being troubled by injuries last year.
The Indian star had a heart-breaking World Indoor championships in Moscow where, she alleged, officials had bungled in giving her lower marks of 6.34 and 6.33 even though she had cleared the automatic qualifying mark of 6.55 metres on her second and third jumps.
Anju's husband-coach Bobby George had handed over a protest note to the jury at Moscow but the appeal was turned down on the argument that the technical officials stood by their measurement.
Bobby George alleged that no vide-recording of Anju's jumps was made available nor shown to the jury.
Though early in the season, Anju feels that she should be capable of challenging Thompson or anyone else in the field, for, she is confident that her preparations had gone off well and it is a matter of getting the right competition rhythm on a given day.
Anju has shown time and again that she can really pep herself up in a big championship as she had done in the past. Last year when she looked well below-par throughout the year, Anju came up with a season best 6.75 metres in Monaco for the silver in the World Athletics Final. She had only managed the fifth place with 6.66 in the World Championships in Helsinki before that.
Anju's main aim for the year is the Asian Games in Doha in December. But, she knows winning the Commonwealth Games would give her the boost she needs to go for the challenges ahead, including the Beijing Olympic Games.