MANGALURU: When he looks back there are moments that make him happy and ones that make him sad, as Tao masters would describe as the yin and yang of life. With these moments there are regrets and disappointments, things that can’t be erased, no matter how hard one tries. For Anju Bobby and husband-coach Robert Bobby George, there are two such moments in an otherwise ‘decorated and accomplished life’. Not winning an Olympic medal and not getting beyond World No 4. “These still haunt us,” said Bobby. “She could have easily become No 2 if some who were caught doping later were caught then (when she was No 4). World rankings do matter.”
The frustration compounds if one is considered one of the ‘cleanest’ athletes in the world — by none other than the international athletics federation (IAAF) — in a sport filled with suspicion. When athletes scorn at the thought of revealing whereabouts, Anju and Bobby obey the clause as if it’s a ritual. “It’s about responsibility,” said Bobby. “It was not difficult. We know what needs to be done and just followed WADA guidelines. We never missed a test. If Anju was sick, we carried the chart and showed it to the doctor to avoid drugs banned on the WADA list. Sometimes, her recovery took longer than usual. That’s it.”
As he watched athletes go through their chores on Sunday, Bobby recounted the days when WADA marshals would come knocking at his doors at unearthly hours. Once they had just returned from Europe when officials knocked their door in Bangalore. “It was 5 am. I thought it was the milkman who we had not paid because we were out for a while. Suddenly four or five people, including a lady, said they were from WADA and wanted samples. Once they arrive, you can’t even brush your teeth. Anyways, Anju gave the sample. It isn’t easy but we ensured we competed at the highest level clean.”
Anju’s silver at the World Athletics final in Monte Carlo was upgraded to gold after Tatyana Kotova was disqualified for doping last year. Her nemesis Irina Simagina too was banned for doping.
However, the Dronacharya is hurt that India is yet to capitalise on the platform created by Anju. “There are good jumpers like Mayookha (Johnny) but no one has made any progress yet. There are a lot of factors restricting progress of our long jumpers. Maybe the training isn’t good or the talent isn’t there. There are instances of overload. One has to have the right measure of training, hard training and recovery. One has to know when to stop and start. It’s the responsibility of the coach as well as the athlete.” Producing another world championship medallist from India won’t be easy. It’s been almost 12 years since Anju’s bronze in Paris 2003, but India is yet to have anyone nearing that. As Bobby says in Spider-Man-esque manner, “With extraordinary talent one needs extraordinary effort to succeed in the world.”