Veteran Indian long jumper Anju Bobby George named Woman of the Year by World Athletics

The 44-year-old Anju, the only Indian to have won a medal in the World Championships with a long jump bronze in the 2003 edition, was named for the award in the world body’s annual awards night held virtually on Wednesday.

Veteran Indian long jumper Anju Bobby George awarded Woman of the Year by World Athletics
The award is given to recognise a woman who has dedicated her life to the sport of athletics. Anju is the second recipient of the prestigious award, which was started in 2019, after Ethiopia's Derartu Tulu. (Image courtesy: Twitter / WorldAthletics)

Legendary Indian long jumper Anju Bobby George has been bestowed with the Woman of the Year Award by World Athletics for grooming talent in the country and advocating gender equality.

The 44-year-old Anju, the only Indian to have won a medal in the World Championships with a long jump bronze in the 2003 edition, was named for the award in the world body’s annual awards night held virtually on Wednesday.

The award is given to recognise a woman who has dedicated her life to the sport of athletics. Anju is the second recipient of the prestigious award, which was started in 2019, after Ethiopia’s Derartu Tulu.

Tulu is the first black African woman to become an Olympic champion, with 10,000m gold medals in 1992 Barcelona and 2000 Sydney Games. No woman was named for the award in 2020.

From 2014 to 2018, a similar honour called ‘Women in Athletics Award’, which recognised outstanding achievements and contributions made to develop, encouraged and strengthened the participation of women and girls at all levels of the sport, was given.

“The former international long jump star from India is still actively involved in the sport. In 2016 she opened a training academy for young girls, which has already helped to produce a world U20 medallist,” World Athletics said in a release.

“A constant voice for gender equality in her role as Senior Vice President of the Indian Athletics Federation, Bobby George also mentors schoolgirls for future leadership positions within the sport.” One of India’s most illustrious track and field athletes, Anju said she was “truly humbled and honoured to be awarded Woman of the Year by World Athletics”.

“There is no better feeling than to wake up everyday and give back to the sport, allowing it to enable and empower young girls! Thank you for recognising my efforts,” she tweeted.

World Athletics added that her efforts in advancing the sport in India as well as inspiring more women to follow in her footsteps make her “more than a worthy recipient” of this year’s award.

“I am really, really happy to learn that this year’s Woman of the Year Award is considering my name. As an athlete it was a hard journey but I still believe I could reach the level which I deserve. And now it’s my turn to give back to our sport,” Anju said in a video uploaded on Twitter by World Athletics.

“I am serving as senior vice-president of Indian athletic federation (AFI) and my academy, Anju Bobby George Foundation, is nurturing 13 women athletes — small kids — and within a short span of three years they will all have already started their journey to the world stage.

“I thank all my supporters, all my fellow athletes, coaches, my family, federation and everyone who stood with me during my journey. Thanks a lot once again for considering me.” Hailing from Kerala, Anju is India’s only medallist at the World Athletics Championships (Paris, 2003), a gold medallist in the IAAF World Athletics Finals (Monaco, 2005).

She finished sixth in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens with a personal best leap of 6.83m, but was elevated to fifth place in 2007 when the United States of America’s Marion Jones was disqualified for a doping offence.

Last year, Anju was elected as senior vice-president of the Athletics Federation of India, the highest post occupied by a woman in its history. She was recently made a member of the Executive Committee of the Indian Olympic Association as Athletes Commission representative.

Promising long jumper Shaili Singh, who was spotted and mentored by Anju and trained under her husband Robert Booby George, recently won a silver in the World U-20 Athletics Championships.

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) thanked the WA for honouring Anju.

“Thanks @WorldAthletics. A proud proud moment for #IndianAthletics. Congratulations to all the winners of #WorldAthleticsAwards 2021.” Olympic champions Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica and Karsten Warholm of Norway were named the World Athletes of the Year at the awards night.

Thompson-Herah produced one of the finest sprint seasons in history this year, retaining her Olympic 100m and 200m titles in Tokyo and adding a third gold medal in the 4x100m relay.

Besides her Olympic triple, she also clocked world-leading times of 10.54 and 21.53 over 100m and 200m respectively, moving to second on the world all-time lists and coming within touching distance of the long-standing world records.

Legendary American sprinters Carl Lewis and Florence Griffith-Joyner were the first male and female athletes of the year when the awards were introduced in 1988.

The awards were earlier known as World Athletics Gala Awards. Until 2014, the International Athletics Foundation (IAF), together with the then IAAF (World Athletics since 2019), organised the Galas to commemorate the world’s greatest athletes of past and present.

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