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Teen Long Jumper Shaili Singh Could Be The Next Anju Bobby George

  • IWB Post
  •  February 8, 2019

A call from Coach Robert Bobby George led Shaili Singh’s parents to send their daughter from Lucknow to Bangalore so that she could undertake training at the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) training centre in Kengeri.

Mentored by Anju Bobby George’s husband, Shaili, a teen long jumper, broke the under-16 national record at the junior nationals at Ranchi in November. It was at 2003 World Championships in Athletics that Anju became the first Indian to win a bronze in the long jump and talking about Shaili, who she feels has the potential to break her record, Anju said, “I believe that Shaili will be able to break my national record of 6.83 metres which has stood for 14 years. She has the potential to become a world-class athlete.”

It was in the girls’ under-14 long jump final at the 2017 national junior athletics championships in Manglagiri, Vijayawada, when Robert saw the talent that Shaili possessed and he was certain she was made to make a mark in the sport.

Recollecting the day, George said, “She didn’t have a specialised coach, and her technique was poor or rather she had no technique. She was just running and jumping but she was not willing to give up. Her body language remained positive till her sixth jump. I could see the determination on her face.”

He then asked his wife Anju to find out details about Shaili as they thought it was worth making an attempt to coach this young girl.

“The advantage when it came to Shaili was that she hadn’t received any formal long jump coaching. She was also just 14 when she moved to Bangalore in February last year. So we could start from scratch, which was good because there was no ‘bad technique’ which I had to change. Moreover, she was a keen learner who is extremely dedicated. She wants to be the best,” he said.

Shaili has acquired the hitch-kick technique, however, George says that there is still more to learn for this budding star. “I have not started any advance training, be it technique or physical workout. She has not started weight training yet. Her muscles have to develop naturally and her bone structure too will mature. She has just turned 15 so she has a lot of time on her hands. She will be eligible to participate in two world junior championships. There is no need to rush her. Our aim is to target the 2024 Olympics,” he said.

Shaili gives the credit to her mother for encouraging her to excel in what she was interested in doing and recollecting how it all happened, she shared, “My mother read in the newspaper that a selection trial was being held and told me to participate if I was keen. She knew that I was interested in sports, so she always backed me. I first appeared for a selection trial in Jhansi and then at the KD Singh Babu Stadium in Lucknow. I was selected to be part of the Lucknow sports hostel where I spent about five months before I moved to Bangalore. It is at the national camp that I was taught about long jump technique, the importance of diet and rest and recovery. I have been able to improve my personal best by a metre since moving to Bangalore.”

Among the six athletes at the junior national camp at SAI hostel in Kengeri, Shaili is supported by the Anju Bobby Sports Foundation who sponsors their education, kit and gear, and travel.

Speaking about their training, Anju said, “When Bobby was coaching me and I was participating, at times we were following a trial-and-error method. But now we have the knowledge and the experience gained from competing against the best in the world and winning medals. We know what needs to be done. I am confident of developing a bunch of women jumpers who will be able to consistently cross 6.50 metres.”

Anju feels that Shaili has the potential to become a world-class athlete and talking about it she said, “When I was 14-15, I used to jump about 5.40 metres. But that was a different era. We trained on mud tracks and didn’t have spikes. So it would not be accurate to compare two eras when the facilities were different. But I believe Shaili has the potential to become a world-class athlete. We are there to take care of her and she is talented. I had to struggle and rise but she is really lucky as she can train with a single coach and has access to a good training centre. Now it is up to her to make the most of it.”

H/T: The Indian Express

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