"We started our academy three years back, and we have got some good talents. Within one and a half year, they are showing their talents; they are at the world stage. One 16-year-old girl, Shaili Singh, is world number 2, and we are expecting her to be world number one this year. Within four years, she will break my record," the legendary Anju Bobby George had said in an interview with The Bridge in late 2019.
Cut to a pandemic, one and a half year later, Shaili Singh has proved Anju Bobby George right. The 17-year-old long jumper from Uttar Pradesh, yesterday, jumped a distance of 6.48m and rose to the world number 1 position in under-18 for the 2021 season. Besides, set also a new under-20 National Record for India during the process.
Born in the land of Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, Shaili Singh was raised by a single mother who worked as a tailor. With her mother being the lone earning member, financial problems were aplenty for Shaili's family, which also includes her two siblings.
She joined the Anju Bobby Sports Foundation in 2017 as a 14-year-old after being spotted by Robert Bobby George and has been working under the tutelage of the George couple since.
The youngster has since grown leaps and bounds, breaking the junior national record multiple times. Her under-18 national record jump of 6.15m back in the year 2019 was way higher than the qualification standard set for the IAAF Under-20 Championship in 2020. Shaili Singh is even supported by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) through the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
There was a definite reason why Anju Bobby George pointed Shaili Singh as someone special during our interaction with her in 2019. In fact, the 44-year-old was all praise for her ward on Twitter last evening.
"So proud of Shaili's feat! A jump of 6.48m to create a new NR and up her U-20 world ranking to No.1 (U-18 youth category). This is an extremely emotional moment for us, considering all the hard work and effort we have put in to come this far. Onwards and upwards," she tweeted.
While Shaili Singh is in the rights hands to rise as a force in the world of athletics, the George couple can only give her guidance.
As Anju Bobby George said in the same interaction with The Bridge, "Being a coach is a different job, and an athlete is in a different phase. So once they are inside the ground, only an athlete knows how to handle a situation."
Shaili Singh has some extremely experienced people to guide her but, much like all the athletes in the world, she will have to carve her own path. She has enormous potential and has time and again proven it. Now, it is about time that she starts converting it into some consistent performances against the best in the world.