Reported By: Ritayan Basu
Last Updated: September 29, 2023, 06:15 IST
Kolkata [Calcutta], India
The athletics action at the 19th Asian Games starts on Friday and Indian long jump legend Anju Bobby George is expecting a rich haul.
Athletics had contributed 20 medals (8 gold, 9 silver, 3 bronze) out of India’s total of 70 at the 2018 Asian Games. This time around, India will be sending a 65-strong squad, the largest in the Indian contingent, with many expecting a record number of medals too.
When asked about India’s chances, Anju Bobby George, who is the vice president of the Athletics Federation of India and is part of Sony Sports Network’s expert panel on Sports Extraaa for the Asian Games, said: “Everything is planned really well and athletes are ready for the Asian Games. I’m not going to quote numbers because we are expecting a lot, the total number will be huge.”
When asked how important winning medals will be, given the Olympics next year. Anju said: “Next year is the Olympics of course. So these are the competitions that will be testing for them. And within a few months, there are the Olympics, so they have to prepare. In terms of medals, we have to see how many we can get. Another question is how many will be gold. I think, if they do well here that will help as they can actually perform better at the Olympics. It is an indicator of our preparation for the Olympics.”
When pressed for numbers and who all can get India gold medals, she added: “Jumps, throws, relay, Avinash Sable. All of the athletes will try to get medals, especially gold.”
Olympic, World Championships as well as defending Asian Games champions Neeraj Chopra definitely leads the pack when it comes to gold medal sureties with shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor, 3000m steeplechaser Avinash Sable as well as the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams being bankable names for Gold.
In men’s long jumps, the pair of Murali Sreeshankar and Jeswin Aldrin, will surely bounce back to take India’s medal tally further, feels Anju. Murali had a disappointing show at the World Championships whereas Aldrin has been inconsistent throughout the season with fitness issues.
“If we come to long jump, Murali Sreeshankar and Jeswin Aldrin who are actually doing exceptionally well, and are actually leading the World Championship. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do well in the end. But I think they will come back and show their better performance in the Asian Games,” Anju Bobby George during an online interaction with the media.
As for Shaili Singh, her protégé who fell agonizingly short at the Asian Championships recently, Anju is not willing to put unnecessary pressure on the youngster.
“Shaili is just this 19-year-old. The silver medal was a setback for her because of her injury but after that, she bounced back she started training and she recorded a 6.76m jump this year. After that, unfortunately, she got COVID and she was getting back again. But now she’s all well and she’s getting ready.”
“I don’t want to push her beyond her capacity because she can touch seven metres of course but we don’t need now. In maybe one or two years we can achieve that but everything is going at a steady pace,” she added.
When asked about the recent viral video that spread the fake news about hurdler Jyothi Yarraji winning gold at the Asian Games even before stepping foot in China, Anju Bobby George said,” Athletes actually they know how to take positive things and how to take negative things. But everybody’s actually posting that video, reposting it, as for normal people, they know that the Asian Games has started but don’t know when athletics is starting. They don’t know when the event is but saw some videos that she’s winning.”