Athens Olympics Will Always Remain Special

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   (2012-07-21 00:00:00)

When the legendary P.T. Usha showed high regard for Hyderabad’s double Olympian J. J. Shobha recently at Gachibowli, it was apparently a tribute to the latter’s remarkable saga of grit and determination at the Athens Olympics.

Shobha’s stupendous feat of completing all six events in the 2004 Athens Olympics still remains one of the most memorable chapters in Indian athletics itself. The touching reception from the Olympic Stadium crowd in Athens in 2004 crowd on finishing the heptathlon despite a ligament tear almost tempted one to think for a moment whether she had actually won a medal!

“No one expected me to complete the last event (800 m). The injury happened during the javelin,” Shobha recalls eight years later. For the record, she finished a creditable 11th in the final placing. “Yes, there were many question-mark faces when they saw my name in the competitors’ list at the venue,” says the South Central Railway staffer.

Who was the inspiration? “Honestly, I was initially not keen to take part in the 800 metre race. But, when the Indian contingent felt I should complete, I mustered enough courage and conviction and went ahead,” Shobha said. Interestingly, she finished with 6,172 points, below her personal best of 6,211 points.

How were the Olympics? “Because it was Greece, the birthplace of Olympics, it was more special than the Beijing Games for me,” insists Shobha. “Competing with the best in the world was itself an unforgettable experience,” she says.

What does she remember most about Athens Olympics? “The amazing training sessions of the women’s pole-vault. They showed where we lag behind and why at that level,” she observed.

For the 33-year-old athlete, who moved over from Dharwad to Hyderabad in 1997 for better exposure, the dreams were dashed no doubt in Athens. “It seemed everything was lost for me,” she says with a tinge of disappointment. “Yet, the crowd response inspired me to complete the final event,” she says.

By all means, Shobha has a special place in the athletics Olympics history for her grit and determination, if not for winning the medal.