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    Don't hesitate to let your child take up sports, says one of India’s most illustrious track and field athletes Anju Bobby George

    Amitesh Srivastava Amitesh Srivastava 9 Mins Read

    Amitesh Srivastava Amitesh Srivastava

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    Written by Amitesh Srivastava and published on 31 May 2021.

    In an exclusive interview, the star athlete talks about her career, how COVID-19 has affected sports and why parents should encourage their children to take up sports

    Don't hesitate to let your child take up sports, says one of India’s most illustrious track and field athletes Anju Bobby George

    Anju Bobby George is a legend in the history of Indian athletics. By winning the bronze medal for the long jump in the IAAF World Championships in Paris (2003), she became the first Indian athlete to win a world championship medal. And then she became India's first and only world champion in athletics when she won a gold medal in the IAAF World Athletics Finals (Monaco, 2005). One of the country's most inspirational track and field stars, Anju has received many awards, including the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the country's highest sporting honor.

    After her retirement, Anju continues to be a prominent figure in the world of Indian athletics. She, along with her husband and coach, Bobby has started a training academy for athletes. Anju believes that all children should be encouraged to participate in sports, as it teaches invaluable life skills. She discusses this and much more in an exclusive interview with ParentCircle.

    Here are the excerpts from the interview.

    Q. How is the current COVID-19 scenario affecting Indian athletes?

    A. Actually, it's affecting not only Indian athletes but also athletes around the world. But now Europe has opened up, and it has already started the competitions. It's creating world records, but in India, we are still trying to figure out how to cope with the situation. We have started training only for Olympic-qualified athletes. The junior athletes, who are going for the World Championships, Asian Games, or Asian Championships next year, are still waiting. We need to find solutions to bring them back to the field safely and give them a good training environment. we have to act very fast.

    Q. Your career is one of the most decorated ones in the history of Indian athletics. Can you tell us how you got into athletics?

    A. Actually, I started very early. It was my parents who initiated me into sports and later athletics when they realized that I was a little different from other kids. From a very young age of around 9 years, when I was in class 4 I started training. It happened very slowly, not all of a sudden. Later, I was very lucky that I could find good coaches whenever it mattered. and then I found Bobby. All this helped me make it to the international platform.

    Q. With the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic, how can athletes remain focused on their goal?

    A. Actually, for Indian athletes, it's a positive sign, as most of them are very young. It's not a problem for them. The Olympic Games are held every four years, and athletes start their training maybe three or four years before the games.

    It's an unfortunate event. nothing like this has ever happened before, at least in our time. So, it's a little difficult for our athletes to adjust, as they were in the final stages of preparation. However, now everyone is coping with the situation. We are still not able to go out and train, but athletes are keeping up their physical fitness levels with the facilities available around them. Slowly, we are going back to the sports grounds. There is still one more year to go till the Olympics. So, I think we will have enough time to prepare and participate.

    Q. How important is it for kids to detach from their gadgets and take part in physical activities or play sports?

    A. Actually, in the past six or seven months, we have been asking our kids to stay away from gadgets. But during this time, everything even studies has been happening via mobile phones or laptops. and for the rest of the time, the children are in front of the TV! It will be a difficult task for the parents or teachers to keep children away from gadgets.

    However, I think now children are also desperate to go out, meet people and do outdoor activities. That is a positive sign. Once everything reopens, they will slowly come out. They will probably be bored after being glued to their gadgets for so long and will be looking for new things to do. So, I think it will be easy for us to lure them away from gadgets.

    Q. Do you think that too much screen time is affecting the bond between parents and children?

    A. Because of the pandemic, things have been different parents and kids have been locked together in a room or a house. As a result, we are getting enough time to meet each other and interact. Otherwise, parents go to work, kids go to schools, we return late and don't get to spend much time together. However, now, we are staying under the same roof, and the bonding has actually increased. Kids are learning many things from their parents and parents are also learning from their kids.

    Q. How can parents tackle their children's obsession with gadgets, especially when staying indoors is now the norm?

    A. Parents can introduce kids to some sort of physical training with the things available inside the house or in their backyard. We can play with kids and tell them stories. If there are grandparents at home, they can do a lot to engage kids. If kids have any other interests or talents, we can teach those things to them. Of course, it might not always be possible, but we can try.

    Q. How can kids take up physical activities without going out?

    A. Well, there are lots of programs. The government, as well as many private organizations and schools, is conducting online coaching programs. Kids can take part in these programs. The only downside is that they will have to use gadgets.

    Q. Are your children, Aaron and Andrea, interested in athletics or any other sport? Would you like them to follow in your footsteps?

    A. Yes, I would like them to get into athletics. In fact, we have already started training them. Bobby and I are athletes, and when children come from a family of athletes, they have a natural inclination toward athletics. My kids can decide on their specific events later, but they will definitely take up athletics.

    Q. Sports provide a lot of mental benefits, along with physical benefits. What is your opinion on this?

    A. Yes, in today's world, we hear of kids committing suicide, even for a small reason. Cases of depression are also growing. These are difficult things for parents to handle. However, if children are engaged in any kind of physical activity, it will help them to shed their extra energy. It will teach them to live a disciplined life. They will learn how to make quick decisions and handle difficult situations. They can learn a lot of life skills from sports.

    We are pampering our kids a lot these days. We provide them with everything and shield them from all difficulties. They are living in a bubble. But, in sports, they will learn how to handle pain and sorrow, the value of sweat, and the feeling of victory.

    Q. What drove you to set up a training center post-retirement?

    A. I am here because of sports, and it's my duty to give something back to the nation. It's every citizen's duty to give back to society. As an athlete, this is how I can contribute. Bobby and I know how to train an athlete and bring them to the world stage. Why waste the knowledge and talent that we have earned through these years? Keeping that in mind, we started our academy.

    We have selected women athletes from all over India. Currently, there are 13 athletes. We are starting from where we stopped. So, it's easy for them to learn quickly and easy for us to guide them to the podium. This is the first time an athlete, who is a medalist, and a coach, who trained that world champion, have started an academy together. So, I guide the athletes from an athlete's point of view and Bobby does so from a coach's perspective.

    Q. The national record of 6.83m you set at the Athens Olympics in 2004 still stands. And you have also created history by winning the bronze medal at the World Championships in Paris in 2003. How did you feel at that moment?

    A. Any world achievement is a big moment for us and India. This was the first one, so it was double the joy. It's not easy. athletics is one of the toughest events in sports. In a world championship, you have to compete with athletes from more than 200 countries. It's not a one-on-one game. We are competing with all the opponents at the same time. So many countries are competing for those three medals, and then when you win a medal, it's a dream come true! If you are a national topper in an exam, you feel that you have achieved something big. Imagine what it would feel like when you top the world. It's hard to explain that experience.

    Q. As the chairperson of the Indian Olympic Associations Athletes Commission, do you have any message for parents?

    A. Parents are still trying to figure out whether they should get their kids into sports. They are uncertain about a career in sports. They wonder if it's safe to let children play sports, and worry that injuries might happen. Parents are also concerned about how their children will manage their studies. They have a lot on their mind!

    As an athlete and an athlete representative, I will say let your child participate in sports. They will learn a lot from it. If they are interested, they can pursue it further and build a career in it. Even if they get a state-level or a national-level certificate, they can easily go abroad and study on a scholarship in the top universities. So, there are lots of opportunities in sports. If they are talented, they can take it up as a career.

    Actually, the ultimate aim of studying and finding a job is to make money. There is a lot of money in sports. Moreover, sports will bring you fame and recognition. So, don't hesitate to let your child take up sports.

    Anju Bobby takes the pledge to participate in #GadgetFreeHour


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