| Anju Bobby George
Athens: There is this faint smell of a medal here, like everywhere else was, maybe, but present nevertheless. Anju Bobby George, world championships bronze medallist, will be giving her best to get an Olympic medal. Fingers are crossed, but possibly the first target will be a final entry.
Anju has been training hard here, away from media glare, and one hopes her concentration pays off.
1988 seems to have been a watershed year of the women’s long jump. The records are sort of stuck at that time, when Anju was all of 11 years old. Jackie Joyner-Kersee of the US set the Olympic record in Seoul in September that year at 7.4m, after the then Soviet Russia’s Galina Chistiyakova had the world record in Leningrad earlier, in June. That was, and still is, 7.52m. The progression of the women’s long jump hasn’t been good. If anything, the standards have been pretty much awkward.
In the last Olympiad, the four years between the two Games, Eunice Barber of France hit 6.99 for gold at the Saint Denis world championships, where Anju got bronze at 6.7m. Fiona May of Italy had put distance at 7.02 in the Edmonton world championships, but wind was at 2.6m/s. Anju has taken her mark to over 6.82 this season, but those were wind-aided.
In Athens, going by the qualifying round entry list, Anju is in group A of the qualifiers, showing a 6.71m entry with a personal best of 6.74 (at the 2003 nationals).
The big entrants here are Irina Simagina of Russia with 7.27m, Marion Jones with 7.11m, Grace Upshaw of the US with 6.84m, Yingnan Guan of China at 6.8m, Alina Ramona Ilitaru of Romania at 6.73, Jade Johnson of Britain with 6.72, Bianca Kapler of Germany at Anju’s distance, May, now at 6.69, and a few others, who could easily push Anju to the brink.
Anju will be pushed, pushed very very hard. She knows it. That she has been around the world, taking part in as many events as she could. But her best has been 6.83 at a Eugene meet before coming here, and she has to really stretch.
Considering the anomaly in growth of the long jump marks, Anju’s ‘world ranking’ becomes irrelevant. In the heptathlon, Carolina Kluft of Sweden, the ultimate champion, had the best jump at 6.78m. That’s no yardstick, but surely does provide hope. Seven-metre jumps are becoming rare, and one hopes it stays that way. It will help Anju and India’s cause.
In the women’s 5,000m, Meseret Defar of Ethiopia won gold at 14:45.65, beating Isabella Ochichi of Kenya to second spot (14:48.19) and Tirunesh Dibaba to third spot (14:51.83).