In the still, shallow and sparklefree waters of Indian athletics, Anju Bobby George has thrown a sizeable pebble. In a television interview, the long jumper has said she did not think P.T. Usha was a “world-class athlete” in her heyday, hinting obliquely that the “Payyoli Express” finished fourth in the 400 metre hurdles in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 because of the boycott of the Games by athletes of the Eastern Bloc. “I am only looking to world-class athletes,” Anju said, when asked why she did not consider Usha as her idol. “Usha and Milkha Singh are only Asian level athletes.”
In response, Usha has said Anju was nobody to decide her credentials when the International Amateur Athletic Federation had selected her as one of the eight best athletes in the world in 1985 and 1986. “Anju is like a small child to me. I have seen her grow before my eyes. She has to grow further,” Usha said. “I do not want to hurt Anju now as that could hurt her preparations for the Beijing Olympics. India is expecting a medal from her.”
Questions: Is Anju Bobby George, the first Indian athlete to win a world championship medal (bronze), right to question the credentials of Usha, who missed an Olympic bronze by 1/100th of a second, and the “Flying Sikh”, who missed an Olympic bronze by 1/10th of a second? Or is she merely stating a fact? Despite her accomplishments, will Anju George ever capture the imagination of the Indian public like Usha and Milkha did? Will such one upmanship help Indian athletics, or push it down further? Or is this a sign of the times, when anything goes to make a bit of a noise?