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SAI must hire counsellors for juniors too: Anju Bobby George

Former long-jump ace Anju Bobby George  says Kerala hostel suicide could’ve been avoided if girls received professional help

Former India long jumper Anju Bobby George has suggested solution to the issue of discontentment or discrimination among junior trainees at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) that led to four girls indulging in a suicide pact at the SAI centre in Kerala’s Alappuzha district on Thursday leading to the death of one, Aparna Ramachandran (15).

Also read: Four SAI female athletes attempt suicide over alleged harassment, Ministry launches inquiry

Anju Bobby George with son Aaron at the Vasai-Virar Marathon last year
Anju Bobby George with son Aaron at the Vasai-Virar Marathon last year

SAI experience
“Every SAI unit must have counsellors for junior athletes just as they do for seniors. I remember when I began training at SAI Bangalore at the age of 18, I did not have access to any counsellor or psychologist. We could only speak to our coaches or the warden about any issues. Only later, when I represented India and won medals, was I able to consult a counsellor if needed. If SAI can initiate this at the junior level too, incidents like the recent suicide pact at SAI, Alappuzha can be avoided,” Kerala-based Anju told mid-day yesterday.

The 2003 IAAF World Championships bronze medal-winning long jumper said she felt terribly sorry for the youngsters, who fell victim to a conservative society. “I believe the girls simply sipped on some beer or wine and were harshly questioned for that. Kerala can be a very conservative society when it comes to women and it’s sad that these girls had to go through this. Teenage is the time to try such things and as long as the athletes were dedicated to their profession, no one has the right to trouble them,” added the 38-year-old Commonwealth and Asian Games champion.

Also read: Sports fraternity express shock at suicide attempt by athletes

Anju promises to lead by example. “I’ll be starting my first academy (Anju Bobby George Sports Foundation) in Bangalore later this year followed by another in Kochi. Here, I will ensure off-field aspects like counseling will be provided to athletes here besides the obvious on-field coaching,” Anju signed off.

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