Jimmy George: The genius that towered over the rest
Jimmy died in a car accident in Italy on November 30, 1987, at the age of 32. The news came as a complete shock to everyone as the overwhelming feeling was that the jaws of death had unwittingly swallowed up one of the volleyball world’s foremost geniuses.
Following his death, the Jimmy George Foundation was established. The foundation in 1989 instituted the Jimmy George Award which was to be given to the best sportsperson from the state of Kerala.
The foundation is also instrumental in giving away cash awards at St. Joseph’s High School, Peravoor, and at Devagiri College.
The government of Kerala rechristened the indoor stadium in Trivandrum as the Jimmy George Indoor Stadium. At St. Thomas college, Pala, where Jimmy studied and played, a volleyball stadium was named after him. So was another stadium in his hometown of Peravoor. Since 1989, the Kerala Volleyball League of North America has been organizing the Jimmy George Super Trophy Volleyball Tournament.
If the dedications and appreciation within India were big, then the tributes that flowed in from Italy just went to show the reverence with which he was remembered in the country. An indoor stadium in Italy was dedicated in his memory at Montichiari, Brescia, and an annual junior tournament is organized in his memory.
And the lasting impression that Jimmy’s game had left in Italy could not have been better exemplified than from the fact that the indoor stadium at Montichiari, Brescia, was named after him, even before Trivandrum offered its salutation with its own stadium.
But the best of them all came in a quaint little town in Italy near the city of Milan where Jimmy once played with the local Coletto club. A street near the club’s headquarters was renamed Jimmy George!
It was the moment that Jimmy George was institutionalized in Italy.
Jimmy played for India’s national volleyball team in the Asian Games in Tehran (1974), Bangkok (1978) and in Seoul (1986). At the campaign in Seoul, he helped the team win the bronze medal.
He also played a starring role in India’s success at the India Gold Cup International Volleyball Tournament at Hyderabad in 1986.
At the age of 21, George became the youngest volleyball player to win the Arjuna Award. He was given the G.V. Raja Award in 1975 and won the Manorama Award, for the best sportsman of Kerala, in 1976. Later on Jimmy was honoured as the best sports person from Kerala of the 20th Century.
He also received the recognition of the best player in the Gulf Region while playing for the Abu Dhabi sports club between 1979 – 1982. He was rated amongst the top ten attackers in the world in the 1980′s. Another feather in his cap was that he became the first Indian player to have played for a professional foreign volleyball team, and he had quite a successful time while there.
Jimmy’s extraordinary ‘hang time’ had an air of mysteriousness and awe surrounding it. While many were left exploring how exactly he pulled off those levitational leaps, some of his teammates tried explaining it.
“He had what is called the absolute jump — more than a metre above the ground — which in the 70s and 80s was very rare in India. It still is,” was what Jimmy’s former team mate Ramana Rao had to say.
“Volleyball is all about defying gravity, but Jimmy’s was the most stylish jump because he managed a little air-rest where he could stop in flight for a fraction of a second,” he added.
He was also one of the first to bring the jump-serve into the Indian team; something which had previously been unused in the Indian setup.