Special Correspondent

Anju plans to compete in the World indoor in Moscow from March 10 to 12South Africa is a favourite location of European athletes during winter months Anju plans to compete in the World indoor in Moscow from March 10 to 12South Africa is a favourite location of European athletes during winter months

NEW DELHI: Anju George has had a change of plans. Instead of going to Melbourne as part of her preparation for the Commonwealth Games, the long jumper is planning to go to Potchefstroom, South Africa.

If all the formalities were to be completed in time, the Kerala long jumper and husband-coach Bobby George would be leaving for Johannesburg, via Mumbai, on the morning of January 9.

A 39-member Indian athletics squad is already in Potchefstroom, 117km away from Johannesburg, in the North West province of South Africa, since December 30. The athletes, accompanied by a 12-strong coaching staff, had moved from Doha, Qatar, where they had earlier gone ostensibly to get a feel of the place a year ahead of the Asian Games.

The Indian team is expected to return on February 12 but Anju might stay on in South Africa for another week before coming home to participate in the Federation Cup to be held here from February 24 to 27. She then plans to compete in the World indoor championships in Moscow from March 10 to 12. Qualification round in Moscow will be on March 11 and the final on March 12 at 4 p.m. local time.

The Commonwealth Games athletics competitions will be held in Melbourne from March 19 to 25. The women's long jump qualification will be on March 22 and the final on March 24.

Initial plans

Anju was initially planning to train at Melbourne University with the help of the Union Sports Ministry and the Australian organizers apart from a few well-wishers. "There was only one competition that we were going to get in Australia. And then we had to consider the time difference between Melbourne and Moscow, that of eight hours. Being in India will mean lesser difference (two and a half hours) and we can be back from Moscow and leave Delhi sufficiently early for Melbourne," said Bobby George on Monday.

Bobby is hoping to get at least one competition in South Africa (outdoors) and perhaps one anywhere in Europe before returning home and testing Anju out in the Federation Cup. He was not sure which all-indoor Permit meetings in Europe had women's long jump and which ones would be able to accommodate Anju.

The AFI has also sought to know from the athlete whether she could compete in any of the circuit meets planned before the Federation Cup, one in Delhi (Feb. 15) and another at Patiala (Feb. 19).

Besides Australia, South Africa is a favourite location of European athletes during winter months, especially those wanting to compete outdoors early in the season. However, it is not yet known whether the AFI had been able to arrange for a few competitions for the Indian athletes.

"The preparations have gone well so far. After the break (Christmas at home at Peravoor, Kerala), it is time for an intense period of training again," said Bobby.

The AFI has sent Anju's proposal to train in South Africa to the Sports Ministry. Her name had not figured in the original batch of athletes since she was scheduled to go to Melbourne.

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