Sports and physical activities have taken a backseat amid the force majeure that has been imposed by the outbreak of COVID 19. Athletes, who were supposed to keep active and running on the field have been confined to their homes and rather taking out some time to wind off. Anju Bobby George, who till date remains the only Indian athlete to win a senior athletics World Championship medal (long jump bronze in Paris in 2003), is getting a break from her busy otherwise schedule to spending quality time with her family.
The Asian Games Gold medallist long-jumper runs the Anju Bobby Sports Foundation in Bengaluru with husband Robert Bobby George. Though training has been stopped at her academy, she is regularly following up with the 13 students she has in her academy, “Two days before the lockdown, we sent all our athletes to their homes. Since there is no major championship this year, we don’t need to rush. We are just ensuring they maintain their fitness. We are sending our students the workout videos via WhatsApp. They do it and send it back via videos and then we evaluate them and provide them with feedback,” said Anju in an exclusive conversation with The Bridge.
The two-time Olympian is surprised by the unprecedented change of situation. Everyone was caught off guard, but Anju feels athletes are slowly getting used to it. Getting back will be a long fight, however, they are staying strong with the students.
“A lot of equations have changed in a matter of month. My students were here and were training in groups and now they are all at their homes. We are constantly in touch with them and asking them not to worry. It is our responsibility to ensure that they are not mentally fatigued. A lot of them have complained that their muscle mass is doing down, their weights are increasing. But we have been convincing they will regain everything once this condition improves,” says the veteran athlete who turned 43 this week.
Anju, who is spending the time with her family in Bengaluru is taking it slow and relaxed as there is no need to send kids to school or to travel. She quips, “My husband and I are attending the preparatory conferences by SAI. That’s going to continue for a month. We had a video-conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. We also keep ourselves busy working out at our homes. Besides, other household chores are also being taken care of by us. We are getting plenty of time to spend time with our kids, and also watching movies together at home. We have online classes for coaches so we are keeping them engaged. Every evening we are monitoring athlete’s training. It’s also a time where I can do a lot of experiments in cooking as well,”
COVID-19 is putting the global economy into a tailspin. Many countries are heading for very sudden and unprecedented recession. This crisis will catalyze some huge changes. Few industries will avoid being either reformed, restructured or removed. The sports ecosystem has also now encountering the economic challenge and having an own academy always come with a cost – from employees to equipment, the list goes long. “We academy is still managing it well with the finances. The problem will come when the sponsorers will stop with the funds. However, it will be a problem everywhere. We were in an uphill road, but with the shift in dynamics, things will fall back into the same places. We have to ensure we keep our employees safe. We will come back and fight back together,” says Anju.
The athlete believes, once the condition improves, it will be a difficult start from scratch as there is no assurance of the time which will be taken to get back to normalcy. However, she will still have plenty of time to prepare her students. She opines, “Our students are quite young and that’s why we don’t need to rush. They are in their transition period. Even if the condition improves, they won’t be able to start off where they had left. It is time-consuming, so once everything resumes, we have to start from scratch and ensure they are at the right fitness level. We will have enough time in our hands to train them for big competitions.”
Being a national record holder (at 6.83m at the 2004 Athens Olympics), the legend understands that sportspersons are creatures of habit and find it difficult to go a day without training. That’s why Anju feels the pain of athletes who saw their years of efforts go down in vain with the postponement of 2020 Tokyo Olympics to 2021.
“It is a difficult situation for all the athletes who have been training hard for the Olympics. They were preparing for the last four years and suddenly all their plans getting shelved is difficult to comprehend. We are not also in the position to say whether the Olympics. Of course, there are two sides to look at it. While young athletes will get enough time to prepare, for senior athletes, it will be a challenge to maintain themselves. Many of them had plans to retire post the 2020 Olympics, will again have a year to wait,” concludes Anju.