The only Indian to have a World Athletics Championships medal to her credit, Anju Bobby George feels Indians should first concentrate on reaching the finals of their events, and only then think of winning a medal.
The 2003 bronze medal winner in long jump said if Indians started thinking like this, they would perform better at the Doha meet, starting on Friday.
“I don’t think we have sure-shot medal winners this time. But we have athletes who have the quality to reach the finals and they should ensure that first. If someone starts thinking about a medal from the beginning, that will put undue pressure on him or her and that can take a toll on their performance,” Anju told The Telegraph from Bangalore on Thursday.
Anju fancies the prospects of some Indians in Doha. “Long jumper Murali Sreeshankar has the ability to reach the final. In 1,500m, Jinson Johnson may impress us. Then there are three 4x400m relay teams — men, women and mixed. They too may do well. Tajinder Pal Singh Toor (shot put) has it in him too.
“I have confidence in our contingent, but they need to deliver at the right moment,” she said. “This is one of the biggest platforms athletes are getting before the Tokyo Olympics, and they should utilise it big time. If they do well in Doha, that experience will definitely help them.”
Asked about sprinter Dutee Chand’s chances, Anju said: “She is in good form, but the competition would be very very tough for her. I wish her all the best.”
Anju believes sprinter Hima Das, who is out of the world event due to a back injury, will be sorely missed.
“Hima has done well in recent times, but injury forced her out of important meets like this. But from now on, she should choose meets more judiciously. She has won some gold medals in recent times, but those were not the most challenging kind of tournaments. Those are basically for junior athletes. She should take part in some important European meets. I think that will help her. I wish Hima a speedy recovery,” Anju said .
“There are several good schemes for the athletes now, like the Target Olympic Podium Scheme and the Olympic Gold Quest. If an elite athlete wants, he or she can easily go outside the country for training.
“And coaches are always there to help. I took help from Mike Powell.”
The American track and field legend had coached Anju in 2003.
Anju believes Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold-medallist javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra will be sorely missed in Doha. “Neeraj was a medal prospect for India in the World Championships, but he is recovering from an elbow surgery,” she said.
Anju won her bronze in 2003 in Paris. She said she was rather confident ahead of the tournament. “I had been doing well before the competition. My coach (and husband) Robert Bobby George and I were confident that we could do well in world meet,” she said.
“It was my first World Championships and I managed a podium finish. I jumped 6.70m and got bronze. It was a great feeling, which I still can’t explain. It was my fifth jump which helped me bag the medal, though I thought it wasn’t good enough. When I heard the announcement – it’s 6.70m — I finally knew it would be medal-worthy effort,” Anju recalled.