Published By: Ritayan Basu
Last Updated: October 15, 2023, 17:20 IST
Indian javelin thrower Annu Rani was so upset with a string of poor performances this year that she had decided to say goodbye to the sport just before the Asian Games.
The 31-year-old from Uttar Pradesh produced a season-best effort of 62.92m to became the first Indian woman to win an Asian Games gold in javelin throw.
“I have struggled a lot this year. I went abroad to practice. I went to learn from a foreign coach but my performance dropped. The whole year had gone waste. There was poor performance in every competition one after the other,” Annu told PTI Bhasha in an interview.
“I had decided before the Asian Games that I would leave sports. Despite so much effort, I was not able to win anything. The government and SAI had invested so much money in me but I was not able to perform. After the World Championships in Budapest, I had thought of quitting the sport.”
Annu stood 11th with a best throw of 57.05 meter and could not qualify for the finals in World Championship in Budapest in August. She finished 7th at the Diamond League in Brussels in September with a throw of 57.74m meters. She could not touch the 60 meter mark in the entire season.
However, she won the gold medal at the Asian Games with a throw of 69.92 metres.
Regarding changing her decision of retiring from sports, Annu said, “It came to my mind that I have come here after facing so many struggles, so I will take one last chance in the Asian Games. I worked hard and was confident that I would play well and win a medal.
“The competition was tough with World Championship medallists and Olympic medallists. I had come down thinking that the worst that had to happen has already happened and now what will get worse and I only wanted gold, not silver or bronze.”
Annu said that her childhood struggles inspired her to fight and she wanted to be an inspiration for girls in similar situations.
“I inspired myself by remembering the circumstances of my family and where I started from. I also thought that I am not the only one struggling. People have to struggle in every field.
“I come from a society where people used to stop me even if I wore a lower t-shirt. The family had no knowledge of sports. Was scolded at home for wearing lower t-shirt for the first time. I didn’t even have shoes and had to borrow them from a friend when I went to compete. Remembering the journey, the struggle that I faced to reach here, I thought that I will not accept defeat.”
Annu said now she is focusing on the Olympics.
“Now the aim is to perform well in the Paris Olympics. I want to tell the players coming from the same background as me that they should not give up, they should fight for themselves and girls can do anything.
“Now we are getting support from government, SAI and federation in everything. If collaboration like TOPS and Khelo India continues, there will be a lot of medals in the next Olympics,” she said.
In the men’s javelin throw event in the Asian Games, Olympic and world champion Neeraj Chopra won the gold medal and Kishore Jena claimed the silver.
Annu believes that the future of javelin throw in India is very bright and this performance will inspire the youth to take up the sport.
“Once an Olympic medal comes in any sport, the mindset changes. We feel that coming from the same environment, taking same diet and when Neeraj can win, we can also win.
“This builds trust among budding players. Now the players are performing so well. Seven-eight years ago players used to go to participate in the Olympics but now their aspirations have increased so much that they are not satisfied even with silver, they want only gold.”
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)