NEW DELHI: It has been a roller-coaster ride for javelin thrower Annu Rani. Till the end of June, she was on tenterhooks, not sure whether she would make it to the Tokyo Olympics. July 1 brought good news. World Athletics announced the remaining quota places for women’s javelin throw, and Annu was told she had made the cut. She had qualified for Tokyo on the basis of her world ranking, which was 18th at the time of cut-off. Now in the 11th position, Annu is India’s second female javelin thrower after Gurmeet Kaur at the 2000 Sydney Games to qualify for the Olympics.
That she couldn’t qualify by breaching the Olympic qualification mark (set at 64m) did bother her, but she is not complaining.
“Throwing 64m is on my mind. My coaches and I believe I can develop into a 70m thrower,” Annu Rani said. “I have to improve my technique and use my power better to throw the javelin farther,” she said.
To put things in perspective, only nine women have breached the 64m barrier this season. Had World Athletics not given quota spots on the basis of rankings, the field at the Tokyo Games wouldn’t have been complete.
Poland’s Maria Andrejczyk has thrown 71.40m, Germany’s Christin Hussong has 69.19m to her credit and USA’s Maggie Malone has achieved 67.40m.
Annu’s best came earlier this year in March at the Federation Cup in Patiala, where she threw 63.24m. It was 76cm away from the Olympic qualification mark, but she broke her own national record for a staggering eighth time in her career. The first one came in 2014, and since then has been India’s best women’s javelin thrower.
Her love for throwing started in the sugarcane fields of Bahadurpur village in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. It was in these fields where she first started hurling sugarcane sticks on the insistence of her elder brother Upendra, who noticed her upperbody strength. Annu would throw cricket ball flat to the stumps from the boundary line during cricket matches in their village.
Upendra was a long-distance runner and supported Annu in her pursuit. But her father disapproved. “I pleaded with him. Finally, since I was the youngest at home and everyone was fond of me, he allowed me to go into sports. He thought I would play for a while and give up later,” said Annu, who comes from a family of farmers.
Since her family couldn’t afford a proper javelin, Annu’s was made of a bamboo stick. “My brother convinced my first coach Kashinath Naik sir (a former international). That’s how my journey started.”