Anju Bobby George shares fond memories of Paris

Anju Bobby George
Anju Bobby George proudly displays her World Championships medal. Photo: Manorama/Manoj Chemancheri

As Paris is gearing up for the 2024 Olympic Games, which will commence on July 26, India's legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George sits entirely engulfed in nostalgia. She has a lot of cherished memories of the 'City of Lights'. It was at the 2003 edition in Paris that Anju clinched a bronze to hand India its first-ever World Athletics Championships medal. The 47-year-old Olympian, who is the vice-president of the Athletics Federation of India and the chairman of the Anju Bobby Sports Foundation in Bengaluru, which has been nurturing the next generation of women athletes, takes some time off her busy schedule to take a walk down memory lane.

Shocked and confused

Following the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, I travelled to Europe to take part in the Gold League (which was replaced in 2010 by the Diamond League). The World Championships was just a week away. The competition in Germany left me fatigued and drained. I felt weak and queasy. I was taken to a hospital in Germany and underwent a full body check-up. It was only then I realised that I was born with a single kidney. Seeing my test results, a doctor there was taken aback and asked me how I managed to achieve success and reach the top with a single kidney? It was an extremely traumatic experience. Bobby (Robert Bobby George) was my pillar of strength during those testing times.

Bouncing back from adversity

Mike Powell, who was my coach then, returned home disappointed, thinking that my athletic career was over. It was Bobby who suggested that we should go to Paris immediately. We went to Paris and stayed in a hotel. As I got bored sitting in the hotel room, I took a stroll down a nearby park. I felt energised watching athletes training at a ground adjacent to the park. I was still confused about whether to attend the World Championship. Bobby gave me the courage to give it a try. 

Paris days

I reached the venue with a newfound energy and optimism. I did well to reach the finals, and topped the first round of the finals by clearing a distance of 6.61m. I fouled my next two jumps and could register a disappointing 6.56m in the fourth attempt.  However, I came back strongly and leaped 6.70m in the fifth and final attempt to take home the bronze. After the World Championship, I trained in Paris for the next four years. I have so many fond memories of Paris, which brought me luck. The city will always hold a special place in my heart.

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