Written by Andrew Amsan
Updated: July 21, 2022 9:48:04 pm
Annu Rani reached her second World Championships final in Oregon after finishing 8th in the qualification round with a 59.60 metre throw in her third and final attempt. (File Photo)
Javelin thrower Annu Rani reached her second World Championships final in Oregon after finishing 8th in the qualification round with a 59.60 metre throw in her third and final attempt. Only three athletes managed to achieve the direct qualification mark of 62.50m on Thursday.
The 30-year-old Uttar Pradesh athlete, taking part in her third World Championships, made the cut for the finals by virtue of finishing in the top 12. Annu, who created history in Doha by becoming the first Indian woman thrower to reach the finals, will need nothing short of a miracle to finish on the podium at Oregon.
Although Rio and Tokyo Olympics silver medallist and season leader Maggie Malone, who has a personal best of over 67m, exited the field with a best throw of 54.19 in Oregon, there are quality throwers in the field for the finals.
Two throwers — Liu Shiying, the Tokyo Games gold medallist and Doha World Championships silver winner (63.86) and 2022 Paris Diamond League winner Haruka Kitaguchi (64.32) — have thrown better than Annu’s lifetime best of 63.82m in the qualification round itself.
It goes without saying that they will crank it up in the finals. Defending champion Kelsey-Lee Barber, who has a mammoth personal best of 67.70m, will also be competing for the medal. To reach anywhere close to the podium, it would require an extraordinary effort from Annu. But former coach Kashinath Naik, who has trained Annu for 5 years, believes that Annu has it in her and thinks this is her best bet at bagging a Worlds medal.
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“You could see she was trying to conserve energy in the qualification round. She will surely come up with a much better throw in the finals and so will her competitors. But I know she is capable of hitting the 65m mark. She is a senior athlete now with a lot of experience, she should go for the medal,” says an optimistic Naik who is a javelin coach at the Army Institute of Sports.
Annu, who has virtually no competition on the domestic circuit, first broke the national mark back in 2014 with two throws of 58.83m at the same competition. Since then no other woman thrower has entered the national record book apart from her. This is her NR progression: 58.83m and 59.53 in 2014, 59.87 and 60.01 in 2016, 61.86m in 2017, 62.34 and 62.43 in 2019, 63.24 a year later and 63.82 in 2022.
After the Tokyo Olympics low, where she managed a throw of just over 54 m and finished 29 out of 30 in the qualification round, Annu has slowly covered lost ground. At the 2022 Javelin Nationals in Jamshedpur in June, she rewrote the national record for the 9th time with a 63.82m throw. Annu has performed consistently this season hitting 60m plus range regularly.
“Annu has improved a lot in the last couple of years. She is a much stronger thrower and I have learnt she has hit 65m plus throws in practice,” says Naik who parted ways with Annu in 2018. But for Annu to get optimal results in the final, coach Kashinath believes, there is one nagging flaw that she would have to rectify.
“It was an issue with her even while she trained with me. She has this habit of dropping the arm (throwing arm) way too quickly and that makes the throw less lethal. The coaches can only tell her but she has to apply it. She gets some throws right and some wrong. I saw her at the Interstate in June and she had the same issue,” explains Naik who has worked with several top throwers in the country.
“That is just one flaw but she has the calibre to win a World Championship medal, ” he adds.
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