Run, Dutee, Run
Dutee Chand is the first Indian to qualify for the blue riband event of the Olympic Games, the 100m dash, after 36 years. But there's more than her competitors on the track that the Odisha girl had to beat, to get there
Name: Dutee Chand
Age: 20 years
Event: Women's 100m
It's what she does best, and is happiest doing. Running. But in 2014, Dutee's world came crashing down. A medical test showed that the Odisha girl had more than permissible levels of testosterone in her body. She was dropped from the Commonwealth Games squad. The medical condition, known as hyperandrogenism, was unknown to most. It was simpler to just label her a man. Just the previous year, she had become the first Indian to qualify for the 100m final of any global event, the Junior World Championships where she finished 8th.
Daughter of weavers from an Odisha village, who barely managed to make both ends meet, the ban kept Dutee away from the track for more than a year. Not one to be bogged down, Dutee, with some help from the Sports Authority of India, took her case to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS), where in a landmark judgement last year, her appeal was upheld, and she was allowed to resume training.
"It was such a big case in Switzerland. But I realised only later what was its real significance,"says Dutee. "I wouldn't have been able to do this without the Almighty's blessings. Maybe this is what he had in mind. Maybe he wanted that this rule across the world changes because of Dutee."
National badminton coach Pullela Gopichand allowed Dutee to train at his academy in Gachibowli, Hyderabad, with her coach N Ramesh."She called me one day and asked, what do I at home, Sir?" says Ramesh. "She was in tears. Because she was stopped from doing what she had done since childhood. With co-operation from Gopichand, we got her to Hyderabad and started training again. She was evidently happier."
At the Federation Cup in New Delhi this year, Dutee shattered Rachita Mistry's 16-year old 100m national record, clocking 11.33, but missed Olympic qualification mark by 1/100th of a second. But she achieved it soon enough, in June, clocking 11.30 seconds at the G Kosanov Memorial Meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan to become the first Indian after PT Usha in 1980 to qualify for the Olympics. "When I finished the heats, my coach came and told me, Dutee, we've managed to achieve what we came here for. And I asked him, what is it Sir? He said I had made the cut for the Olympics with my timing," recalls Dutee."I couldn't believe it. I checked the timings to believe it had really happened. If this didn't happen, that agony of missing it by 1/100th of a second in Delhi would have haunted me for the next four years."
It's been an unbelievable sprint so far no doubt. But Dutee realises her petite frame is a disadvantage for her, and she'll have to do tremendously well to bring to clock sub 11 seconds in Rio.