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Kerala villages pray for Anju's victory

By George Iype in Changanassery
August 24, 2004 11:40 IST
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Churches and temples in a village in Kerala will hold special prayer meetings tomorrow for ace long jumper Anju Bobby George, whose event is scheduled for Wednesday at the Athens Olympic Games.

In fact, for the past many days, villages across Kottayam district have been praying for the athlete who many believe will win an Olympic gold medal.

Anju George creates history in ParisThey say that last year Anju became the first Indian to win a medal – a bronze – at a World Athletics Championships because they prayed so hard for her.

So, tomorrow, the St Athaius Jacobite Church at Cheeranchira, Anju's native village, will hold a special mass for her victory. A similar mass will be conducted in the nearby village of Veroor, at the St Joseph's Church, where Anju married Bobby George.

Father Joseph John, vicar of the St Athaius Jacobite Church, said local people have been coming to the church in large numbers to pray for Anju. "This village is crazy about sports and the Olympics," he said. "Now that Anju is fighting in this Olympics, we need to gather all our prayers for her grand victory. She is our hope. She is India's hope."

At the Sri Krishna temple in Changanassery, a number of villagers have ordered special pujas for Anju's victory. "Her triumph is going to be our pride," K P Padmanabhan, a former sports teacher who claims to know Anju quite well, said. "So we are doing what we can to achieve her victory."

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Anju's father K T Markose told, "It is a season of prayer for my daughter these days in these villages. People love our daughter. All of us want her to win the gold."

He said it was faith that had kept his daughter going all these years. "She has achieved all that she could because of her deep faith in God," Markose said. "We are sure she will do wonders in these Olympics."

Markose and his wife Gracy have been going to the church daily to pray for their daughter's victory. "It is not just us," Gracy said. "All villagers here, irrespective of caste and religion, are praying for her victory. We are thrilled about that."

The proud mother said Anju prays a lot before she embarks on each event. "It is her relentless prayer that has made Anju a world-famous sportswoman," she said.

Anju's athletic achievements have prompted many families across Kerala to encourage their children to take up sports. Cherian Varghese, a farmer in Changanassery, has sent his 18 year-old daughter Mary to a sports school. "My daughter says she wants to be another Anju," Varghese said. "She is now practising for the triple jump."

Many youngsters derive hope and courage from the scores of sportsmen and women that Kerala has produced over the years, like champion swimmer Wilson Cherian and star athletes P T Usha, Shiny Wilson, K M Beenamol, M D Valsamma, Bobby Aloysius, and, of course, Anju.

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George Iype in Changanassery