Legendary Indian long jumper Anju Bobby George has been bestowed with the Woman of the Year Award by World Athletics for grooming talent in the country and advocating gender equality. The 44-year-old is the only Indian to have won a medal in the World Championships with a long jump bronze in the 2003 edition, and was named for the award in the world body's annual awards night held virtually on Wednesday, December 1.
She is the first Indian to be honoured by the sport's world body during its annual awards function. The award is given to recognise a woman who has dedicated her life to the sport of athletics. Anju is the second recipient of the prestigious award, which was started in 2019, after Ethiopia's double Olympic champion Derartu Tulu. Sprint legend PT Usha was honoured by the world athletics body with the Veteran Pin in 2019, in recognition of her contribution to the growth of sport.
From 2014 to 2018, a similar honour called 'Women in Athletics Award', which recognised outstanding achievements and contributions made to develop, encouraged and strengthened the participation of women and girls at all levels of the sport, was given. "The former international long jump star from India is still actively involved in the sport. In 2016 she opened a training academy for young girls, which has already helped to produce a world U20 medallist," World Athletics said in a release.
"A constant voice for gender equality in her role as Senior Vice President of the Indian Athletics Federation, Bobby George also mentors schoolgirls for future leadership positions within the sport," it added. One of India's most illustrious track and field athletes, Anju said she was "truly humbled and honoured to be awarded Woman of the Year by World Athletics".
"There is no better feeling than to wake up everyday and give back to the sport, allowing it to enable and empower young girls! Thank you for recognising my efforts," she tweeted.
World Athletics added that her efforts in advancing the sport in India as well as inspiring more women to follow in her footsteps make her "more than a worthy recipient" of this year's award.
"I am really, really happy to learn that this year's Woman of the Year Award is considering my name. As an athlete it was a hard journey but I still believe I could reach the level which I deserve. And now it's my turn to give back to our sport," Anju said in a video uploaded on Twitter by World Athletics.
"I am serving as senior vice-president of Indian athletic federation (AFI) and my academy, Anju Bobby George Foundation, is nurturing 13 women athletes â€” small kids â€” and within a short span of three years they will all have already started their journey to the world stage. I thank all my supporters, all my fellow athletes, coaches, my family, federation and everyone who stood with me during my journey. Thanks a lot once again for considering me," she added.
â€” Anju Bobby George (@anjubobbygeorg1) December 2, 2021
Hailing from Kerala, Anju is India's only medallist at the World Athletics Championships (Paris, 2003), a gold medallist in the IAAF World Athletics Finals (Monaco, 2005). She finished sixth in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens with a personal best leap of 6.83m, but was elevated to fifth place in 2007 when the United States of America's Marion Jones was disqualified for a doping offence.
Last year, Anju was elected as senior vice-president of the Athletics Federation of India, the highest post occupied by a woman in its history. She was recently made a member of the Executive Committee of the Indian Olympic Association as Athletes Commission representative. Promising long jumper Shaili Singh, who was spotted and mentored by Anju and trained under her husband Robert Bobby George, recently won a silver in the World U-20 Athletics Championships.
Olympic champions Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica and Karsten Warholm of Norway were named the World Athletes of the Year at the awards night. The awards were earlier known as World Athletics Gala Awards.