In a span of seven months, Annu Rani has rewritten her own javelin throw national record twice. Armed with a much-improved technique, she threw the spear to a distance of 62.34m at the Federation Cup in March, and on Monday reset the record again with an attempt of 62.43m to become the first woman from the country to qualify for the javelin final in the World Championships.
Annu’s best throw, which came in her second attempt, put her in fifth spot overall in the qualification round. The 27-year-old has come back strongly this season after her Asian Games disappointment where she failed to even cross the 55m mark.
Annu was left high and dry after the Jakarta event. She was omitted from the throws camp in South Africa under national coach Uwe Hohn.
Her long-time coach Kashinath too discontinued his services at NIS Patiala around the same time. That was when veteran javelin coach Baljeet came to her rescue and thus began her revival. Baljeet suggested some significant tweaks to Annu’s technique and employed unorthodox training methods using golf balls and lighter javelins to improve his ward’s throws.
“There are small things which need to be kept in mind. The knees, shoulder, hip and the throwing arm needs to be aligned in a perfect manner. I had the issue of lowering my throwing arm and then almost freezing it before release. This resulted in me unable to use all my power. Actually, power or strength is not an issue for me but it is my technique,” Annu had said in March after rewriting her national mark from 61.86 to 62.34m. Annu joined the national campers in Poland after the Federation Cup and has been training under Hohn since.
Back home in Meerut, Annu’s family has been following the action on television closely. Elder brother Upendra, who inspired Annu to take up sports, is ecstatic about the qualification for the final but says the family would only celebrate if she returns with a medal.
“We know that it is really tough to bag a medal at the Championships but it’s our job to hope and pray. We are really proud of her achievement. She called me a while back and said she was feeling really good about the throw and is confident of putting up a better show in the final,” Upendra, a farmer, told The Indian Express.
Getting on the podium will be an uphill task for the Indian going by the strength of the field. Asian Champion Huihui Lyu of China managed a mammoth throw of 67.27m to top the qualifiers while Christin Hussong of Germany registered 65.29m.
At the previous edition of the World Championships, the top six spots in the final went for throws above 64 metres. But for now, the Indian javelin camp is pleased with Annu’s historic achievement.
“She is very hardworking and I am really happy to see her do well. It’s a huge moment for us and India. We are rooting for her to do well in the final,” said Shivpal Singh, a national camp teammate, from Doha.
Other Indians fizzle out
PTI adds: The other two Indians who competed on Monday, Archana Susheendran and Anjali Devi, failed to go past the first round in the women’s 200m and 400m respectively.
Archana, 25, who got a last-minute invite from world governing body IAAF to take part in the showpiece event, finished last in heat number 2 and 40th overall out of the 43 participants who completed their races with a timing of 23.65 seconds.
She has a personal best of 23.18. The 21-year-old Anjali, meanwhile, finished sixth in heat number 6 and 36th overall out of 46 athletes, with a time of 52.33 seconds. Anjali, who underwent a confirmatory trial before being cleared for this championships, has a personal best of 51.53, which she achieved while winning gold at the Inter-State championships in August in Lucknow.
The top three finishers in each of the six heats and the next six fastest qualified for the semifinals. The slowest time that made the cut for the semifinals was 52.23.