Not since the days of PT Usha has a young Indian sprinter been able to capture the imagination of the Indian athletics fraternity the way Dutee Chand has. The 100 and 200m runner from Odisha has had a short but impressive career till now. 2014 could be her breakthrough year at the international level.
The last 12 months have seen Dutee Chand shoot into the limelight, excelling at events that Indians have traditionally not performed well in. The 17-year-old from Odisha is the current national champion in 100m, and won gold in both 100 and 200m at the recently concluded National Open Athletics Championships in Ranchi.
"At the junior level, she has been outstanding so far. At this age, even PT Usha had not achieved this much. In the next 6-7 years, she is going to mature into a top international athlete", Dutee's coach Siba Prasad Mishra told NDTV in Bhubaneswar.
What most people don't know about Dutee is that she is the first Indian to have made to the 100m final of a global event. At the Junior World Championships in Ukraine this year, Dutee finished in sixth position.
"When I competed at the Junior World Championships in Ukraine, everyone else was taller and stronger than me. They had nice spikes, and their diet was also very different from ours. In India, we have a tradition in 400m. But there's hardly anything of the sort in 100m", said Dutee.
Dutee's parents are weavers and don't earn enough to support a family of eight. Infact it was her elder sister Saraswati, also an athlete, who turned out to be the family's bread winner when she got a job as a police constable a few years back.
"My sister struggled a lot. She didn't even have a cycle and used to walk and run to the ground for training which was about 10 kms away from our house. She used to run without shoes. Compared to that, I have not had to struggle at all", admits Dutee.
Her sister Saraswati is confident that Dutee will go far as an athlete and does not regret losing out.
"It's okay. I hope she does really well. What I couldn't achieve, I hope she can", said Saraswati.
Along with her training Dutee is also studying law. She is a student at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology. But with the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the Junior Olympics coming up next year, it's unlikely that she is going to get too much time to spend with her books.