India won its first ever medal in the World Championships in Athletics (now known as World Athletics Championships) when Anju Bobby George made her historical leap, clearing 6.7 m and securing the bronze medal in long jump, in France in 2003. It was the biggest achievement by an Indian in World Athletics and it was another 19 years before India got its second medal at the event, with javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra winning silver in 2022.
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Following her feat, she won gold in the 2002 Busan Asian Games and a bronze in the Manchester Commonwealth Games; came fifth in the 2004 Athens Olympics, but set a new national record with a jump of 6.83 m; won gold at the 16th Asian Athletics Championship in South Korea; gold at the IAAF World Athletics Final in Monaco in 2005; silver in the 15th Asian Games at Doha in 2006; silver in the 17th Asian Athletics Championship at Amman in 2007; and silver in the 3rd Asian Indoor Championship in athletics at Doha in 2008. Anju was one of the most consistent performers in Indian athletics history.
Born on April 19, 1977, at Kottayam, Kerala, Anju started off as a heptathlete but later focussed on long jump. Among the numerous national and international accolades she received in her career, this icon of Indian sports was bestowed the ‘Woman of the Year’ award from World Athletics in December 2021.
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Though it took nearly two decades before India could win another medal at the World Athletics Championships, Anju’s performance in 2003 opened the eyes of the nation to its own potential in athletics. In the 2022 World Athletics Championships, India not only won a medal, but also had six athletes in finals—Avinash Sable in the 3,000 m steeplechase, Murali Sreeshankar in long jump, Eldhose Paul in triple jump, Neeraj Chopra and Rohit Yadav (men) and Annu Rani (women) in javelin throw. Anju Bobby George showed the way.