Five months ago, Dutee Chand visited the Jagannath temple in Puri. She had just been barred from competing as a woman in athletic competition. The reason given was case of hyper-androgenism. Chand recalls being angry and asking the deity why she was born the way she had. This Sunday morning, Chand prayed once more. It was more conciliatory in nature. “I simply asked to ensure I run my race without any problems,” said Chand.
Competing at the Orissa State Championships, Chand indeed delivered a clinical performance. “No pain, nothing,” she said. Running at the Barabati stadium in Cuttack, the 19-year-old won the 100m sprint with a timing of 12.00 seconds. Her nearest finisher was over a second behind.
For someone who holds multiple records at the junior national level and only last year became the first Indian to reach the final of a world youth event, winning at a state meet may not sound like much. Yet, in Chand’s case, just the act of competing with her peers is significant. The competition was her first since the Inter State Athletics Championships in Lucknow in June. Chand could only take part in the state level meet after an interim order from the Court for Arbitration of Sport on December 21 cleared her to run in domestic competition. A final verdict in January will determine whether she can compete internationally.
Ready for national games
As a result of her performance in Cuttack, Chand qualified for the National Games to be held in Kerala in February. She will also be able to represent Orissa at the national-level athletics meets for 2015.
Chand’s timing is much less than her personal best of 11.62 seconds recorded at the World Juniors in Donetsk in 2013. However, she was slowed down both by the mud track at the Barabati stadium and also by the fact that she hardly trained for the event.
In November, Chand had left the national camp at NIS, Patiala, to Bhusaval in Maharashtra where she took her exams to become a ticket collector with the Railways. Her coach at Patiala, N Ramesh, had been transferred to Hyderabad. And with little hope of competing in the near future, Dutee found it hard to train. “The other campers and the officials in charge were very supportive. They asked me if I needed anything particular in my diet because I was an athlete. But at that time I didn’t ask for anything and had the same dal chawal and sabzi that the other campers,” she said.
The 9-to-5 study cycle meant that Dutee had to train between 4am and 6am and the young athlete wasn’t always punctual. “Initially I wasn’t too serious about training. I missed a session once because I was worried about a class. But Ramesh sir was very insistent that I trained.”
Said Ramesh: “I told her even if she didn’t get a proper diet, not to miss training. She was going to come back to competition at some level so she shouldn’t lose too much of her ability and try and stay near the same level as she was in her peak.” He added that the fact that Dutee’s training in 2013 and the fact that she was competing in the sprints rather than an endurance event made her training easier.
“The physical base she had built up in 2013 meant that Dutee was already very strong. And the advantage of running the sprints category is that you don’t lose your speed for up to two or three months after your training. So when she was doing her TC training, she only needed to do the ABC (a technical) drill, weight training and warm ups,” says Ramesh.
But while Ramesh tried to motivate her over the phone, it was the CAS’s interim order that really sparked Chand’s into action. “I only had five days but I trained has hard as I could ,” she said.
Of her performance in Cuttack, Ramesh is simply glad that she got to run. “Dutee is someone who, more than training, is passionate about competing. It must have been a relief for her to finally get to race,” he says.
Chand still has another race at the state championships — the 200m — on Tuesday. However, her main target are the National Games. “At the start of this year, my goal was to run at the Commonwealth games. But all my troubles happened then. Next year, when I run at the National Games, I will consider them as the Commonwealth Games that I thought I would be running in,” she says.