Olympic medal is her dream

"We are confident," was all that Bobby George would say on the eve of his and Anju's departure for Doha. Anju's husband and coach would not hazard a guess as to what could be the distance that she could be aiming for in the Asian Games.

Bobby was cautious. Understandably so since the year had not gone according to plan for the current international face of Indian athletics. In fact, it had been tough for the long jumper beginning with the Asian indoor championships in February and the World Indoors and the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March. Anju jumped 6.54 metres in Melbourne and as the year goes out, that has remained her best for the season.

Beginning with the 6.74 in 2002, she had closed the next three years at 6.70 (Paris World Championships), 6.83m (Athens Olympics) and 6.75 (World Athletics Finals). She had this knack of producing her season best in big championships.

Doha should not have been different. But Anju was not really hundred per cent fit in the run-up, a heel injury suffered before the Doha Super Grand Prix in May causing untold misery for the next three months before she made a return to competition at the South Asian Games in Colombo.

A fever, the cold weather in Doha and her rhinitis problem all contributed to a below-par performance. Japanese Kumiko Ikeda proved too good in the end with a 6.81m.

Anju had to bring off a desperate last jump of 6.52 metres to edge Kazakh Olga Rypakova by three centimetres for the silver. "A silver is not bad after all," she would say later, disappointed that she could not defend her Busan gold that incidentally came at just 6.53 back in 2002, but far better than a bronze medal.

An Olympic medal has remained Anju's dream and by the looks of it she should be there at Beijing less than two years from now.

Kamesh Srinivasan, K. P. Mohan & Kirti Patil