Long jumper Ancy Sojan has different playlists for various facets of her life. When she has to relax, she listens to Malayalam songs. Before the day of her jump events, she listens to English music and dances to get herself in the right frame of mind.
And after winning, as she did with her Asian Games silver medal on Monday, she will be dancing into the night to ‘ Naa Ready Thaan Varava’ (I am ready, are you ready for me?) from actor Vijay’s upcoming flick Leo.
But for much of the year, despite her promise, not many were ready for Ancy to arrive on the stage.
In the build-up to the Asian Games and in recent times, it’s the junior Shaili Singh, who was earmarked to be the strongest Indian in the pit. Shaili’s personal best 6.76m jump at the start of the year and a silver at the Asian Athletics Championships, deservedly put the spotlight on her ahead of the girl from Thrissur.
For the 22-year-old Ancy, though, it was about sticking true to what she believes in and following it through. Simply following one’s process. She cited former India cricket team captain MS Dhoni’s oft-repeated words ‘process over results’ when making her point. Ancy is the latest of the current generation of Indian sports stars, who have adopted Dhoni’s approach of getting the basics rights and not worrying about the uncontrollable.
“I just told myself, whatever happens, I will do my process. If I’m a medallist, not a medallist (doesn’t matter). Just trust in my process. And that is working. And I’m also very thankful for my mental conditioning trainer.
“Once Dhoni said that whatever you are training, ensure you put that into your performance. You just concentrate on what you can do. I just focused on a good run and a good take-off. I gave that and got a good performance. This is my process,” she explained at the Hangzhou Olympic Stadium after the final.
Ancy started the year with a 6.49m jump in March and progressed to a personal best of 6.56m in May. But after the fourth-placed finish in Bangkok, she was set back both physically and mentally for a period of time.
“Already this season I lost out on winning medals by close margins. At the Asian Athletics, I finished fourth so I was very sad for one week. I put on weight because of menstrual problems. I became 59 kilos because of menstrual problems. I corrected myself in three weeks and got down to 55kg. I reduced carbs and then got back in good shape. But after recovery, I just told myself ‘no problem, I can do it [win a medal]‘,” said Ancy.
She says her tough outing at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games last year when she finished 14 th with a best of 6.25m with a +2.3 wind assistance proved to be a great learning experience for her. At that time, Ancy, who stands at 5’4”, thought to herself, “People smaller than me were doing 6.80m so I thought why can’t I do that too? I am taller than them. Their strengths are different. I needed to get my runway better.”
By Ancy’s own admission, she starts slow with her jumps and then hits her stride to go long by her fourth or fifth jump. But that all changed for her at the Inter State Athletics Championships in sweltering conditions in Bhubaneswar this year. She jumped 6.49m with her first jump and that was enough to earn qualification to the Asian Games. “I had a good run on the runway this time. Previously, I have made mistakes trying to adjust it,” she said back in June.
But she can also recover even when she starts poorly. The next day in the final, she began with 5.87m and kept progressing before jumping 6.51m with her fifth attempt to snatch gold ahead of Shaily.
In the Asian Games final, Ancy jumped a big 6.49m with her second attempt and followed it up with a 6.56m, equalling her personal best in the Federation Cup in May. Then in her fifth attempt, she broke it again to jump 6.63m to seal the silver for her.
“The first one (6.13m) was a bit uncontrollable. With the Asian Athletics experience, I course corrected. I was very happy when I got the PB mark,” she said.
And her background as a runner until 2021, before making long jump her pet event helped her get her next four jumps right.
“It was the best runway I have ever had. I increased my runway speed and distance, the mondo track is very advantageous for me. I am a former sprinter, and that helps me in my jump,” she said.
With her first major medal sealed, Ancy couldn’t wait to go back to do two things she loves. Eating some ice cream after a disciplined diet enabled her to cut down on weight and dance to her current favourite song.
Ancy is ready to go, are you ready for her now?
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