Long jumper Ancy Sojan owes it all to parents, coach

Proud coach
Ancy Sojan with her coach Kannan. Photo: By Special Arrangement

Parents often yearn to realise unfulfilled wishes through their children, but rarely do such dreams become a reality.

Years ago, Sojan E T was a budding athlete and classmate of Olympian P Ramachandran at the Central UP School at Nattika in Thrissur. Sojan could not pursue his dreams on the track and became an auto driver to make ends meet. But he was determined to make his daughter Ancy an athlete.

Ancy, who will turn 19 on March 1, recently broke the national Under-21 long jump record with an effort of 6.36 metres at the Khelo India Youth Games in New Delhi. The Plus-Two Bioscience student of Government Fisheries Higher Secondary School, Nattika, also bagged the 100m gold. Ancy was rewarded for her excellent showing as she was included in the Indian team for the Asian Indoor Championships. But the meet that was to be held at Hangzhou in China was cancelled following the outbreak of cornonavirus.

“I was not expecting the call to the national team. It would have been my first international meet,” Ancy told Onmanorama over the phone from Nattika.

Ancy, who has a younger brother and sister, attributes her success to the sacrifices of her parents and coach Sanoj, popularly known as Kannan. “I follow the instructions of Kannan sir. I have been training under him for the past seven years,” she said.

Dedicated coach

Kannan’s story is similar to that of Sojan’s. He was the typical 90s kid – very passionate about sports and having little interest in studies. “I used to compete in many disciplines in athletics and also play cricket,” said Kannan.

Naturally, studies took a backseat and Kannan failed to clear the SSLC exam. Later on he too would become an auto driver to take care of his family, but he never lost interest in athletics.

“It was headmistress Soudamini who first asked me to train the students at the Nattika LP School,” Kannan recalled the initial days of his coaching stint.

“I knew Kannan as we used to play in opposing cricket teams in our teenage days and later on the word spread that he was a good athletics coach. I took Ancy to Kannan at the Nattika KM UP School when she was in class seven,” Sojan remembered his daughter's initiation.

Talent to the fore

Ancy finished fourth in 100m and 200m and won a bronze in long jump in the sub-junior state meet in 2014.

“Anjali P D was the star performer from our area during that period. Later, she left the school and went over to Usha School of Athletics. Now she has returned to train under Kannan,” Sojan, whose wife Jancy is a temporary employee of Consumerfed, said.

Later, Nattika Sports Academy was formed, thanks to the efforts of Sojan, Kannan and a few like-minded people. “We train at the Nattika Fisheries School ground and make the most of the limited facilities at our disposal,” said Kannan, who does not get any fixed salary for his coaching efforts.

Going through the grind
Ancy Sojan trains at the Nattika Sports Academy. Photo: By Special Arrangement

“I do it (coaching) out of my passion and earn my livelihood by driving auto. Sometimes I get invited for Ancy’s felicitation functions and thus get some money,” said Kannan.

Biggest asset

Kannan, whose uncle Prasannan is an experienced athletics coach in Mumbai, feels the biggest plus for Ancy is her devotion to training. “I won’t say Ancy is the most talented athlete I have ever coached. But her devotion is something else. I genuinely feel she can win a medal for India in the U-20 Worlds (to be held in Kenyan capital Nairobi in July). I expect her to go past the 6.6m mark this year if she stays injury-free,” Kannan said feeling upbeat about his ward.

Germany's Lea-Jasmine Riecke clinched the long jump gold with an effort of 6.51m at the last IAAF World U-20 Championships in 2018 followed by Japan's Ayaka Kora (6.37m) and Tara Davis of the US (6.36m).

The immediate assignment for Ancy is the state junior meet to be held in Kozhikode next month. “I want to do well in Kozhikode. Then comes the Federation Cup (National Junior Athletics Championships). If I keep bettering my performance, medals will follow,” Ancy said.

Source of inspiration
Ancy with her parents and siblings. Photo: By Special Arrangement

Kannan makes it clear that their focus is on long jump. “Ancy is competing in sprint events as basically one needs a fast run to do well in long jump,” the coach noted.

The women’s long jump scene in India is looking in good shape with an array of young stars hoping to make it big. Apart from Ancy, Keralite Sandra Babu, Tamil Nadu’s Sherin Abdul Gafoor and Shaili Singh of Anju Bobby George's Athletics Academy, Bengaluru, are all capable of beating each other on their day.

“I wanted to break Sherin’s record of 6.15m in the Khelo India meet. I am glad I could pull it off,” Ancy remarked.

The journey has just begun for Ancy and the early signs are that the teenager is well on the road to bring laurels to the country.

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