Annu Rani’s javelin has covered impressive distances since the disappointment of 2018 Asian Games. Known for having a penchant for making comebacks, the 28-year-old has been breaking records one by one through a series of brilliant performances since then.
But as the contingent of Indian javelin throwers, who were training in South Africa and Turkey in mid-March this year, not knowing the fate of Olympics then, was recalled to India as the pandemic led to travel restrictions across the world, Rani admits that the challenge athletes are now facing is a different ballgame altogether.
“No athlete can prepare for such kind of a situation. You can put your heart and soul in practice, mentally prepare yourself but how can you prepare yourself to sit back and not train? One of the main reasons the sportspersons have found it difficult to adjust to the circumstances is because they are programmed and trained to work hard and get results,” said Rani, who believes Indian athletes will be at disadvantage once the qualifications for Olympics resume in November.
“While it is true Indian athletes face larger socio-economic problems climbing up the ladder, to assume that this makes them less prone to depression or mental fatigue is inaccurate.
“The quality of facilities, training programmes have improved in India but still we have to practice in other countries to make sure we can get equal if not better exposure to be at par with other athletes before Olympics. I wonder if other countries will be willing to accept us even if the lockdown is lifted,” Rani said from the confines of the National Institute of Sports in Patiala.
Rani had created history by becoming the first Indian woman to reach the javelin final in 2019, surpassing her own national record with an effort of 62.43m in the Doha World Athletics Championship. But for the efforts to bear fruit, especially after disappointing performance in 2018 Asian Games, Rani said she had to overcome obstacles she had not imagined would exist.
“Everyone had huge expectations from me and I was still alien to the fact how cruel the world can be if you fail to deliver. Everything was falling apart after I failed to get a medal in Asian Games, touching a below-par 53.93m. Sponsors pulled out, people questioned my fitness and some even questioned if I was worth the hype and mentally capable to overcome big-stage pressure.”
Rani says, a lot what was said after her failure didn’t reach her ears as she chose to pin her focus and energy on training rather than choosing divergence.
“One ability that separates better sportspersons from the average is the ability to make a comeback when the chips are down,” the master of comebacks said.
Rani remarked and added that this is the attitude she will be carrying forward to qualify for Olympics. “I have done this before (overcoming challenges) and I will do it again, I don’t have options even though the momentum was with me as I had a great year after a disappointing 2018. I was hoping to carry this through till the 2020 Olympics (now 2021) but I know there will be no time to complain once the lockdown is lifted. I have got great support from my brother Upendra Singh and JSW sports, so I have one less worry than I had before,” she signed off.
Meanwhile, the Athletics Federation of India President Adille Sumariwalla on Sunday said that all the athletes based at NIS-Patiala, SAI Centre in Bengaluru and Ooty will start ‘outdoor fitness’ training from Monday.