Anju targets Jan return

Anju targets Jan return

Long jumper star spectator on day one of Inter-State Championships

Anju Bobby George

Anju, India’s only medallist at a World Athletics Championships, is making a comeback but that is still far away. On this day, she was an eager spectator at the Sree Kanteerava stadium, watching her successors battle it out in the long jump pit at the Inter-State Championships.

Anju had last turned out for India at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and had failed to make the final after an injury hampered her attempts in the qualifying round. Focusing on family, Anju veered away from the track but on Saturday, her enthusiastic presence showed her heart has remained firmly in the athletics arena.

Despite having taken a step away from stardom, Anju was still in the spotlight as fans vied with each other to take pictures with her and for autographs. The athlete herself seemed to be enjoying it all, even though she admitted she was a bit tense coming in.

“There were some butterflies in the stomach; it was just like coming to the stadium during my competition days, even though I wasn’t competing today,” said Anju, who had her one-year-old son Aaron in tow. “After a while, I felt normal though,” she added. Anju had set the benchmark for the current long jump aspirants, winning the bronze medal at the 2001 World Championships in Paris. The likes of Mayookha Johny and MA Prajusha have taken that legacy forward, keeping the interest alive.

Anju was all praise for Mayookha, who broke her 2006 meet record of 6.53 with a 6.63M effort on Saturday.  “She looks fit and can do better. It was a good performance, any performance over 6.60 is a good one,” said Anju, whose national record, set at the Olympic Games at Athens in 2004, stands at 6.83 metres.

Anju said her preparations were going on well. “Perhaps by January next, I should be fully ready,” said the 34-year-old, who has more dreams to chase now.

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