NEW DELHI: When Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra was scripting history in the World Championships in distant Eugene in USA, pioneering long jumper Anju Bobby George was getting “goosebumps” in Bengaluru, recollecting an identical situation.
The 24-year-old Chopra was lying at fourth place after three rounds in the final of javelin throw event before making a remarkable comeback with a fourth throw of 88.13m to jump to second place, which he held on to till the end.
Chopra thus became only the second Indian and first male track and field athlete to win a medal in the World Championships. The legendary Anju was the first Indian to win a medal — bronze — in the World Championships, back in the 2003 edition in Paris.
“I was thinking my God, the same situation I was in 2003 in Paris it was happening to Neeraj. I was having goosebumps. He was at fourth after three rounds and I was also fourth after three rounds,” Anju told PTI.
“I was on top after first round but after the third I was fourth and out of medal position. But I was determined to come back and win a medal, which I did. I think the same thing happened to Neeraj also.”
It was a nervy start for Chopra as he opened with a foul throw before registering 82.39m and 86.37m to be placed fourth after three rounds.
But, to the relief of the Indian contingent, and the legions of his fans back home, he got his rhythm back as he came up with a big fourth round throw of 88.13m, his fourth career-best effort, to jump to second place.
His fifth and sixth throws were fouls.
In comparison, Anju began with a 6.61m to lie on top after the first round before having two foul jumps, which took her down to fourth place at the midway stage. She had a 6.56m jump in the fourth round which still kept her at fourth.
But her fifth round jump of 6.70m paved the way for what was a historic bronze medal.
“You can’t be a champion medal winner if you lose confidence easily. If you are among the world’s best, you have to trust your ability and stay focussed to get the result and win a medal,” said the 45-year-old Anju, who is also the senior vice president of Athletics Federation of India (AFI).
“Winning Olympic crown and then a silver medal in the World Championships silver is a really big achievement. The way he has handled pressure and tough conditions has been been outstanding. He has made the country proud again and again.”
Anju said she was so engrossed in Chopra’s event that she herself felt the “pressure” while watching the live telecast early this morning.
“When he had a foul throw in his opening round, every Indian must have be stunned. I was also under pressure because normally he throws his best in the first or second round.
“It was a relief that he came back strongly with his fourth round throw. Now, he is the second Indian medal winner in World Championships after me. She is in my company.
“After his event, he also said that I was the path breaker with the first medal in the Paris 2003 meet. That was so nice of him and he is so humble and down to earth.”
The Eugene World Championships is India’s best ever with one silver medal and five final appearances.
“I hope this trend continues. We waited for 19 years for a medal. Now, I am hoping we will not have to wait that long for next medal. Of course, Neeraj is there and we have a World Championships next year and medals should be coming.
“Indian athletics is making strides. Besides Neeraj, there are others who can win medals (in World Championships). We are also hoping for a very good show in the upcoming Commonwealth Games, hoping for a handful of medals.”