Why Anju Bobby George was chosen Woman of the Year by World Athletics

Why Anju Bobby George was chosen Woman of the Year by World Athletics
© Provided by Hindustan Times World Athletics awarded sprinter Anju Bobby George as ‘Woman of the Year’ after her efforts in advancing the sport in India as well as inspiring more women to follow her footsteps, in Lausanne on Thursday. (ANI)

Anju Bobby George was pleasantly surprised on being chosen Woman of the Year award by World Athletics but it was a recognition of the work that the former international long jumper has done with her husband and coach Robert George in nurturing sports at the grassroots. Their academy in Bengaluru, which the duo started in 2016, currently has 13 trainees, all girls from financially strained backgrounds from across the country. The academy not only takes care of their training but also education.

In a short time, the couple’s efforts have shown some promising results. Shaili Singh, 17, who trains at the academy under Robert, won a silver medal in long jump at the World U-20 Championships in Nairobi this year.

“I was certainly not expecting this,” said Anju from Bengaluru. “I feel honoured. I am really happy that WA has recognised our efforts. This is not for my achievement but what we are giving back to our sport and our society. I am thankful to my family, my husband and everyone who is supporting me in this.”

Anju, 44, is the only Indian to win a world championship medal–bronze at the 2003 edition in Paris. She also clinched a gold medal at the World Athletics Final in Monte Carlo in 2005. Anju said their aim was not only to create champions in the sporting field but to also make them responsible citizens.

“When I got a medal at the world championships, it was me and Bobby, but now we are supporting more girls. Our aim is to not only create champions but their all-around development,” she said. “We are mentoring and teaching them what is our role in society. We have to work for the less fortunate kids.

“Education is must. Even in sports, if you are not educated you will not understand sports science. When we started the academy, we wanted to share our knowledge. Athletics is my passion. It has given me everything and I wanted to give back to the sport.”

Anju said they would be now moving to a new training facility. “We are being supported by the ministry and Sports Authority of India. Because of COVID it took time for the track to get ready but soon we will be moving to a new training centre.”

With Neeraj Chopra winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Anju said the world is now looking up to India athletes.

“I won a medal at the world championships 18 years ago. It has been a long time. But now Neeraj has won a gold medal at the Olympics. The youngsters have won medals at the World U-20 Championships this year. It is a big boost for our sport. Things are changing. The world is looking at India. There is no dearth of talent.”

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