Champion athlete Anju B George said Indian athletes had the calibre to make it big at the world level but lacked top-class exposure.
"We only lack in exposure. Infrastructure is the another thing we have to improve, otherwise we have the calibre to compete with the best," said Anju at a felicitation function in the Capital.
Anju, whose long jump bronze at the World Championships in Paris last month made her the first Indian to win a medal in the event, said her experience has shown athletics could be a rewarding profession like any other sport.
"People like Maurice Greene and Maria Mutola earn in crores, so why can't we?
"I am the first professional athlete from India but I am sure there are many more out there who can make it even better," said the 25-year-old from Kerala.
Anju said the task of bridging the gap between Indian and world levels was going to be difficult for any aspiring youngster.
"To reach that (world) level, one should compete more in the European circuit, gain more Grand Prix points and improve the ranking.
"Then you get qualified for the world events and when you become the best twelve or seven, then you start making money," Anju said.
The year 2003 has been a watershed for Anju.
She won a bronze at the Manchester Commonwealth Games -- another first by an Indian woman -- and the Asian Games gold medal at Busan. But it was the training under legendary American Mike Powell and participation in top European events that opened Anju's eyes to the world.
"The training methods are almost similar there in the US, but Powell was a great motivating factor. He played more of the role of a psychologist than a trainer," Anju said.
Anju said she gained confidence with each passing event in Europe. She was initially awe-struck by just looking at the foreign athletes, but then as she began to match them with her performance, her spirits began to soar.
"Now, they are taking notice that an Indian also can compete with them," she said with an uninhibited grin.
Anju said the bronze in Paris meant she had achieved her objective for the year. "I wanted to win a medal and I have done that," she said.
Asked if she aimed to cross the 7-metre mark, which was her next goal after winning the Busan gold, Anju remarked "That is still my goal, but what is the point in doing seven metres without winning a medal?"
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