By : Shashank Suresh
For javelin thrower Annu Rani, it’s a roller-coaster journey. She was in tenterhooks until the end of June — not sure if she’d come to the Tokyo Olympics.
The good news came on 1 July. The rest of the women’s throw quota was revealed by World Athletics, and Annu was notified she had made a cut. Based on her global rankings, which were 18th at the cut-off time, she qualified for Tokyo. Now in 11th place, Annu rani is the second female javelin launcher to be eligible for the Olympics in India after Gurmeet Kaur at the 2000 Sydney Games.
From Sugarcane to Javelin
On 28 August 1992, Rani was born in the Uttar Pradesh hamlet of Bahadurpur to an agricultural family. The beginnings of an athletic career in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh’s sugarcane fields in Bahadurpur village. In these fields, Annu began throwing sugarcane sticks at the request of her elder brother Upendra, who saw her upper-body power when Annu hurled cricket balls flat to the stumps from their village’s boundary line cricket matches.
Her brother, who was also a long-distance runner, encouraged Annu in her endeavour. Her father, who was traditional and didn’t want his daughter to be out in the field, wasn’t keen on Annu participating in sports but eventually realized his daughter’s potential and gave in.
Beginnings at Gurukul
Annu began her athletic career by training at Badarpur’s Prabhat Ashram. In 2009, she enrolled at the academy and started training for shot-put, discus throw, and javelin throw. Later, she realized her potential for Javelin and shifted her focus completely on that.
Her first guru, Swami Vivekanand Saraswathi, at Prabhat Ashram had a big influence in shaping Annu’s career. It was Swami Saraswathi who got Annu her first-ever Javelin.
Annu has been blessed with different mentors throughout different stages of her career who believed in her potential and motivated and trained her to become a world champion. Her brother, Upendra Kumar, had the biggest influence on her and recognized Annu’s talent first.
Almost missed qualifying for Tokyo Olympics.
Annu Rani has been selected to compete in the Olympics in Tokyo. She won gold in the National Inter-state Athletics Championships with a distance of 63.24 metres. Although Annu was unable to clear the qualification standard (64m), she was eligible for the Olympics based on her global ranking. Kashinath Naik, Annu’s former national coach, feels she may make history by attaining 64-65m in the final Olympics competition.
Annu Rani was trained by Kashinath Naik at first and is currently tutored by Baljeet Singh. Rani won the gold medal in the 2014 National Inter-State Championship in Lucknow with a throw of 58.83 metres, breaking a 14-year-old national record. As a result, she qualified for the Commonwealth Games. She qualified for the 2014 Commonwealth Games with this throw, which met the qualifying requirement of 58.46 metres.
Later the same year, she earned a bronze medal at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, with a throw of 59.53 metres. She smashed her record again two years later at the National Athletics Championship in 2016 with a throw of 60.01 metres, crossing the 60-metre barrier for the first time. She beat her record again in March 2019, throwing 62.34 metres in the Federation Cup National Senior Athletics Championships in Patiala, Punjab.
She earned bronze in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, with a throw of 59.53m. Rani won bronze at the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, with a throw of 57.32m.
Her most recent accomplishments include a silver medal win in the women’s javelin throw event at the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships in Qatar on 21 April 2019, which qualified her for the World Athletics Championship finals, the first Indian woman javelin thrower to compete in the World Athletics Championship.
She had a bronze medal triumph in the Ostrava Golden Spike Athletics Meet, an IAAF World Challenge event held in Ostrava, Czech Republic. In 2020, she was named Sportstar Aces Sportswoman of the Year in Athletics.
Annu Rani’s advice to young athletes
Annu Rani expressed her worry about the plight of females in rural India, saying, “I’ve got a message for the girls. Even now, in communities, females are not encouraged, therefore I want to encourage parents to understand and trust their daughters like they do their sons. Make facilities available to them and encourage them to pursue their ambitions “.
She went on to say that she had a lot of help along the way from her father, mother, coach, and Guru Ji, which allowed her to get to where she is now. She said, “All I want to say is that everyone goes through difficulties in life, but once you get over them, you learn a lot. Accept the obstacles and concentrate on the broader picture“.