Two years ago, Annu Rani had become the first Indian woman to qualify for the World Championships in javelin throw. She had created the national record of 61.86 m at the 2017 Federation Cup to qualify for the London Worlds that year.
But since then, her performances had gone downhill. She failed to throw above 60 m in 2017 and 2018. She was not picked for the Asian Games until the last moment and that too turned out to be a horrible experience as she failed to medal in Jakarta.
“The bronze medal was at 56 m there. It was nothing for me,” Rani says. “But I was unable to throw. I was struggling so much.”
But for a thrower who could not cross 54 m at the Asian Games, it was a remarkable turnaround as Rani threw the spear to a distance of 62.34 m to break the national record in women’s category. The throw was good enough to book her berth for Asian Championships and September’s World Championships as she quashed the qualification marks for both events set at 58 m and 61.50 m respectively.
Rani was a runaway winner as second placed Sharmila Kumari of Haryana managed to clear a distance of just 54.98 m while Rupinder Kaur of Punjab got the bronze medal with an effort of 53.90 m.
The last six months have been hard for Rani. She was removed from the national squad and did not travel to South Africa to train with other national throwers. Since November, she has been training under Baljeet Singh who instantly found the flaws in her technique.
“She comes very straight on and so the power in the throw was very less,” Baljeet says. “She also used to throw at an high angle with a slow arm speed which brought down the distance.”
To correct her technique, Rani was asked to throw something which is not seen at the athletics field – a golf ball. The 40 gm ball thrown by a human arm needs exceptional control. An increased arm speed and control meant, Rani slowly managed to work on her power.
“The problem before was that when I released the javelin, I used to bring my hand very high and slow it down which decreases my power and ultimately the distance,” she says.
Rani also admits that she was so used to this technique that she was finding it difficult to change in the last two years. It was only recently that she made the effort under coach Baljeet to finally turn it around.
“I have been with her since November. I sent videos of her throws pointing out where you need to change. Today also she had some bad throws regarding the angle of the release which cost us 2-3 metres,” Baljeet says.
It was looking difficult for Rani to cross the 60 m-mark on Sunday until her penultimate throw. She began with a distance of 54.67 m and committed a foul on her second throw. She improved to 58.35 m on her third but then dropped to 57.91 m before breaking the record.
Both Rani and Baljeet believe that she can throw close to 64.
The Muzaffarpur girl says that it was difficult for her to focus on the game after the disappointment of Asian Games and I went home with a thought of leaving the game. “Another thing that hurts us is that there is no competition domestically. There was a player with us Suman Devi who used to do well. She has left the game. That was a big push when she used to train with us. For two years, I have no one who has reached close to my mark and because of that you become a bit complacent,” she says.
Now, Rani hopes to find her way back to the camp with the other throwers and also go on exposure trips.
“Czech Republic has some of the best throwers and so has Germany. We may go there. I was promised that if I perform good here I’ll be back with the camp,” she says.