The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Stint abroad was key’

Calcutta: Anju Bobby George’s world championships bronze wouldn’t have been possible had she not trained abroad, say her India teammates. They don’t doubt her talent and ability, but quickly add the most important factor has been her training stint in the US.

“Exposure has been the key. She got the chance to train in the best place possible, as far as athletics is concerned, and availed of modern equipment and facilities,” noted Sarswati Saha, the reigning Asian Games 200m champion.

Soma Biswas, the Asian Games 4x400m relay gold winner and a silver medallist in heptathlon, doesn’t differ. “Training overseas for a significant period of time made the difference. She has always been good, but the US stint has added that extra bit.”

Soma, Sraswati and Anju were in the 2002 Asian Games squad, where Indian athletes, especially women, performed exceedingly well. “Anju’s event was on the first day. Her gold inspired us all to give of our best,” recalled Soma.

Saraswati, currently in Patiala for the ATF preparatory camp, feels Anju has gained from the competitions in Europe. “Those meets are invaluable in terms of assessing one’s own ability and work on shortcomings. Needless to add that rubbing shoulders with the best makes you sharper.”

The sprinter thinks Anju is naturally gifted. “Look at her height and physique. That’s a great asset. To her credit, she has made good use of these and prepared herself. It takes loads of hard work and devotion, mind you.”

Soma adds that Anju stands out for her focus as well. “She is very sensitive about her own performance. Not all athletes are as focussed,” observed Soma, Anju’s room partner in SAI, Patiala, in the Nineties.

Soma and Saraswati think that Anju’s has largely been an individual effort. “I’ve heard that the Tamil Nadu government helped her financially, but she also spent from her pocket. Her enterprise and the will to do well can’t be overlooked,” said Soma.

“Government help, good coaching, sophisticated training, international exposure, all that is fine. But Anju’s credit lies in the fact that she prepared herself to make maximum use of everything,” said Saraswati.

Both Soma and Saraswati felt Anju’s jump beyond the barrier will encourage others to aim higher. “Our dreams are largely confined to the Asian Games but Anju has shown the horizon can be broader. It’s an eye-opener, really,” said Soma.

PTI adds: Encomiums, from all parts of the country, are pouring in. The following are excerpts of what some of the former stars had to say:

• MILKHA SINGH: It is a superb performance that shows Indians can do well at the global level. Hard work and exposure abroad helped her win the medal. Anju’s success is a lesson for Indians who yearn for distinction.

T.C. YOHANAN: Anju has come up with a wonderful performance, for which credit should be given to her initiative and the backing of officials for her training stint with Mike Powell.

• G.S. RANDHAWA: More than training with Powell, it was competing in Europe before this meet that made the difference. She had been consistently nearing 6.70m and I was expecting a medal. If she trains systematically, she can win a medal in Athens. She has to improve on her run and keep competing in high class competitions.

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