It is not easy to sit back at home and watch an Olympic Games when you know you could have been there yourself competing with the world’s best. That’s the pain Anju had to endure between 1997 and 2000. Time and again, just when she seemed to be running into form, she would be pulled down by an injury. She was a fair bet for the squad for the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok. But injury struck. In 1999, after her silver medal in the South Asian Federation meet, the story repeated itself and she was forced to sit at home and watch the Olympics on TV. She admits there were times when she got so frustrated that she wanted to give up athletics and get on with her life.
But fortunately, in Bobby George, then only a friend from the national camps, she had a great source of inspiration and a motivator par excellence. A national triple jump champion, Bobby is also a qualified engineer. The friendship cemented into a closer, more meaningful relationship: the two got married in 2001. That was also the year of her comeback—she touched a career-best 6.74 m. Everyone sat up and took notice. It was a distance that could have got her into the finals at the Sydney Olympics, she would have got a sixth place with the leap. At the 1998 Asian Games, which too she missed, the winner was China’s Guan Yingnan with 6.89 m—a distance within Anju’s reach. At the 2001 Asian Track and Field meet in Jakarta, Kyrgyzstan’s Yelena Bobrovskaya won the long jump with 6.66 m.