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Annu Rani: From hurling sugarcane sticks to representing India at Tokyo Olympics

Annu Rani is the second Indian woman javelin thrower to qualify for the Olympics
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 Olympics.
That she couldn’t qualify by breaching the Olympic qualification mark (set at 64m) does bother her, but she is not complaining.
“Throwing 64m is on my mind. But my coaches and I also believe that 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.”

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 still she broke her own national record for a staggering eighth time in her career. The first of which she broke in 2014, and since then has been the best women’s javelin thrower in the country. In fact, she is the best-ever the country has produced.

The beginnings of a sporting career that started in the sugarcane fields of Bahadurpur village in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. It was in these fields where she first started hurling sugarcane sticks at the insistence of her elder brother Upendra, who came to notice of her upper-body strength as Annu threw cricket balls flat to the stumps from the boundary line during cricket matches in their village.

Her brother was himself a long-distance runner and supported Annu in her pursuit. But her father, who had a conservative approach and didn’t want his daughter to go out in the fields, disapproved of her taking up sports.

“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 for some recreation and then give up later,” said Annu, who comes from a family of farmers.

Since her family couldn’t afford a real javelin due to financial constraints, Annu’s first-ever javelin was made of a bamboo stick. “My brother used to oversee my practice. He managed to convince my present coach Kashinath Naik sir, who himself has represented India at various international tournaments including the Commonwealth Games, to train me. That’s how my journey as a professional sportsperson started.”

From Bahadurpur to Tokyo, Annu Rani is ready to fulfill her long-standing dream.

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