Almost two years ago on a sultry August night at the gigantic Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, Anu Raghavan looked rather dejected despite finishing a creditable fourth in the women's 400m hurdles final at the Asian Games. The Kerala athlete was anxious to find out whether there was a lane infringement by Bahrain's Aminat Yusuf Jamal who clinched the bronze medal.
However, the disappointment gave way to hope in early 2019 when Bahrain's Kemi Adekoya, who won the gold with a Games record of 54.48 seconds, tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid Stanozaol. Last July, Adekoya was slapped with a four-year ban by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), which oversees doping cases in track and field. On Thursday, the body officially stripped the Nigeria-born athlete of her medal, and as a result, Anu's fourth-place (56.92s) was upgraded to bronze medal.
Quach Thi Lan of Vietnam was elevated to the gold-medal spot (55.3s), while the silver went to Aminat (55.65s).
Understandably, Anu is delighted at the turn of events. “I’m excited to say the least. I had worked very hard for the Asian Games and was hopeful of clinching a medal. I had a genuine doubt whether Aminat crossed the lane. My coach (P B) Jaikumar sir had told me that if I was destined to get the medal I would get it. Then came the news of Adekoya testing positive. It has been a long wait to get the ratification,” Anu told Onmanorama over the phone.
The 27-year-old from Palakkad was at her best in 2017 and 2018. She won a sliver medal at the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar with a timing of 57.22s.
However, there has been a dip in her performance post the Asian Games. “After the Asian Games we had a camp in Turkey under Galina (Bukharina, the national coach for quartermilers and relay runners). There were close to 30 athletes and naturally it was tough for the coach to give me personal attention. I have always loved to work with Jaikumar sir (at the SAI-LNCPE Centre in Thiruvananthapuram). To make matters worse my mother fell ill and it was a tough period for me,” said Anu.
Anu, who had moved the Kerala High Court alleging nepotism after being left out of the Indian 4x400m relay squad for the 2016 Rio Olympics, is determined to give her best shot at trying to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics which has been postponed to next July due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The qualifying mark for the Tokyo Games is 55.4s while Anu's personal best stands at 56.77s.
“I was keen to perform well in the Federation Cup, but the coronavirus outbreak upset all my plans and badly affected my training schedule. But I will give my all. Even if I fail to breach the qualifying mark I hope to better my personal best,” said Anu, who is a Senior Superintendent with the Forest Department in Thiruvananthapuram.
At Jakarta-Palembang 2018, India registered their best-ever medal haul in the history of the Asian Games and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports presented the medal winners with cash rewards. The gold medallists were richer by Rs 40 lakh, while silver and bronze winners received Rs 20 and Rs 10 lakh each respectively. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had also given away cash awards to the podium finishers.
“I hope the government and the IOA will recognise and reward my effort,” added the soft-spoken athlete.