Anju: Hope we can get top coaches like Mike Powell

Mike Powell, the World record holder in long jump, had coached Anju Bobby George in the lead-up to the 2013 World Championships in Paris where she bagged a bronze.

Anju Bobby George with her husband and children and Mike Powell (centre).   -  N. Sudarshan

Showing the youngsters the way... Mike Powell at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.   -  N. Sudarshan

Nothing is as contagious as enthusiasm, it is said. And Mike Powell is an enthusiastic man. On Friday morning, it was the turn of a bunch of kids to experience the long jumper’s child-like joy at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, with one of his more famous students, Anju Bobby George, in attendance.

“He has always been like that,” Anju told Sportstar. “His energy doubles on the ground. Training with a World record holder isn’t easy. It’s difficult to keep up. But he is always with us, looking out for us.”

Powell had coached Anju in the lead-up to the 2013 World Championships in Paris where she bagged a bronze. “Before I went to Mike, I had a feeling of not being a world-stage athlete yet,” Anju said. “I had won the Commonwealth and Asian golds, but not at the world-level and that changed.

"The concepts were the same as training under Bobby (her husband and coach). However, the difference was in the energy he spread around us. I enjoyed it, even though it was so hectic, training from morning till evening.

“He introduced us to Hudson-Smith International (a sports management firm). Through them we got entries into Grand Prix competitions. Otherwise it’s not easy to get top-level competitions without any medal.

“For me it was a great opening on the world stage. I gained so much experience competing with top athletes. What I did later was just an accumulation of all that.”

Powell, who is here as the TCS World 10k brand ambassador, on Thursday wished he had worked with Anju more. "She still had a lot more in her,” he said. “She had great jumping ability and way better landing than I had. She needed more speed and I didn’t have enough time to teach her that.”

Anju, too, felt time was an issue. “We tried to go there much in advance and not just three months before,” she said. “But, in those days if one said ‘I am going to train under Mike Powell and I’ll win a world medal,’ the government wouldn’t believe.

“If you’re not perfect, competing with world-level athletes is not easy, more so, with medicine in their bodies (reference to Russian doping).”

This doping menace was what Anju felt cost her more medals. “I now know how I missed a medal in 2004 (Athens Olympics). All three podium places went to Russians. A couple of them (Tatyana Kotova and Irina Meleshina) later tested positive at other places.

“Also in the 2003 Worlds final, it was Kotova who took the silver ahead of me. I was also not in good shape. I could have done 7.15m or 7.20m but couldn’t because of fever.”

More than a decade on, however, Anju felt that the sport had not progressed in India. Hence her focus is now on producing champion athletes through her academy, the Anju Bobby George Sports Foundation, which was launched here on Friday.

“It was my dream to call Mike for the inauguration,” she said. “The academy has the Sports Authority of India’s support. We hope we can get top coaches from abroad like Mike. We will get good results.”

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