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Mixed feelings for Sunita and Bobby

HYDERABAD OCT. 28. For two Indians the opening day of the athletics programme in the Afro-Asian Games provided for mixed feelings. On the track at the Gachibowli stadium was Sunita Rani, the Busan Asian Games gold medallist in her familiar 1,500m run and in the high jump pit was silver medallist Bobby Aloysius providing a study in contrast.

Sunita was a bundle of nerves when the press corps surrounded her soon after the race. She had not won the gold medal and was placed fourth behind teammate, Madhuri A. Singh, in what was generally considered a poor race. For one who had gone through the trauma of losing her Asiad gold medal over drug charges and then getting it back after being exonerated, any media attention seemed unnerving.

Weak looking, the Punjab runner said she had just got over an injury to her ankle and for the practice done in the last few months she was satisfied with her performance. "My aim is Athens Olympics," she said, and the pale look gave a different picture of her state of affairs.

Bobby, however, was chirpy. She had just won the silver after clearing 1.88m, behind her good friend, Marina Aitova of Kazakhstan (the two had jointly won the silver in Busan). Both had scaled the same height. What made her happy was that the new jumping technique she was learning from English coach Denis Doyle helped her achieve her third best effort this year. "I had done 1.89m at the Commonwealth Games trials in Bangalore", said the Kerala girl, who is now based in England where she is doing a course in sports science.

Earning a berth for the Athens Olympics is her goal but to achieve that she knows she has to better her personal best, which is 1.90m. Even though she failed in all her three attempts at 1.92m today, what satisfied Bobby was that she was beginning to get a hang of the new technique, which Doyle, who watched her perform, said had much to do with hip movements and mental focus. "For one who came to me in January this year, Bobby has made much progress", he said. He was confident that with a better grasp of the technique in the coming months she should be in the 1.95m to 1.98m bracket at the Athens Olympics. Hidden in that statement was the assumption that Bobby would easily qualify.

In fact, Bobby herself expressed confidence that she would have enough opportunities before the Olympics to scale new heights. And if inspiration was the need, then Doyle reminds her of the Greece girl who improved from 1.98m to 2.03m at the Atlanta Olympics to win a bronze. "What I say is, it is possible to achieve a new high even in one meet", he said. He thought the officials in the arena today should have been more considerate about the athletes and shown some refrain while using the PA system. "High jump involves lot of focussing and it also helps if the jumpers are given the right settings", he said.

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