India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes. Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.
Anju Bobby George’s bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships in 2003
Anju Bobby George made history when she won the bronze medal in long jump at the 2003 World Championships in Athletics in Paris. She became the first Indian athlete to win a medal in a World Championships in Athletics. What makes her feat even more remarkable is the recent revelation that she did it with just one kidney!
In a tweet, the ace athlete said: “Believe it or not, I’m one of the fortunate, among very few who reached the world top with a single KIDNEY, allergic with even a painkiller, with a dead takeoff leg...Many limitations..still made it. Can we call, magic of a coach or his talent.”
India's first medal, at the global level in athletics, Olympics included, was earned the hard way through a grind in US and Europe before the culmination in Paris.
Everyone knew Anju was quite capable of pulling it off, but on her maiden Worlds, one was not sure what her temperament would be.
After having come through the qualifying rounds in sixth place with a 6.59m, her only valid jump that day, Anju was prepared to tackle the final in a better frame of mind. Anju led after the first round, with her 6.61.
That was the kind of start that should have pushed her to reach beyond her best. And she did.
Her fourth round effort was a modest 6.56m, but in the next, a much more relaxed Anju produced her season best, measuring 6.70m. As she landed, she looked up towards husband Bobby George, sitting in the stands with coach Mike Powell, shook her head and pumped her fist into the sand.
After Kotova and Barber hit the front, Anju held onto her third spot through the competition. Once she finished, with 6.62, after having fouled two in the opening round, Anju had to wait for Britain's Jade Johnson to complete her last round. The Briton did 6.53. Her best, 6.63, fetched her the fourth place.
Since taking the silver at the SAF Games in Kathmandu in 1999 Anju had climbed steadily. She qualified for the Olympics in 2000, but could not make it due to injury, but in 2002, she wrote a new chapter in her career as well as in Indian athletics by becoming the first Indian woman athlete to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games, a bronze. The gold at the Busan Asian Games followed and Anju was well on her way to stardom.
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She finished sixth in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens with a personal best leap of 6.83m but was elevated to fifth place in 2007 when the United States of America’s Marion Jones was disqualified for a doping offence. She also won a gold medal at the IAAF World Athletics Finals (Monaco, 2005).