Sprinters Dutee Chand and Srabani Nanda have being chasing each other over the past year. Nanda, older by nearly five years, is a 2010 Commonwealth Games medallist in the women’s 4×400 metre relay. She brings to starting block the experience of competing at senior continental events. That’s not the only advantage she has over Dutee. Nanda is taller than Dutee and hence needs lesser strides to finish a race.
However, Dutee, an Asian junior medallist, is the more famous of the two. That’s because of her successful appeal at the Court of Arbitration of Sport against the IAAF’s hyperandrogenism guidelines. Since her return to the track after the ban, Dutee had to constantly look over her shoulder. A resurgent Nanda has been snapping at her heels.
Hailing from Odisha, the two are at different stages in their careers. Srabani, 24, at her peak while 19-year-old Dutee’s best is yet to come. On Thursday, Nanda set down another marker early in the season by winning the 200 metres gold clocking 23.91. Dutee came in second with a timing of 24.40. Both were off their personal bests, but the relatively slower timings can be put down to the fact that the South Asian Games did not rank high in their training schedule. They have been planning for Olympic qualification.
Two days ago, Sri Lankan Rumeshika Ratnayake relegated Nanda to second and Dutee to third position respectively in the 100 metres, which went down to the wire. At the National Games last year, Chand, returning after the ban, won gold in the 100 metres. Nanda finished outside the podium. Since then, Nanda has peaked. At the Federation Cup in Mangalore, Nanda won the double while Dutee settled for silver. At the Open Nationals in Kolkata, Dutee turned the tables by winning the sprint double.
Dutee’s long-time coach N Ramesh believes the competition between the two girls is a blessing. “At the senior level, Dutee is still inexperienced but she is learning all the time. It is good that she has a very good competitor in Srabani because it helps her to gauge her progress. If there is no competition then it is difficult to push oneself,” Ramesh said.
Dutee says her timings in both the sprints were off her personal bests (11.62; 23.57) because she is currently in the endurance training phase.
“Both Srabani and I were not at our best at the South Asian Games. But when we are in form, it is always bound to be a thrilling race. We have had our battles over the past year on the track and running against an experienced and class sprinter is helping me gain experience,” Dutee said.
Nanda fulfilled her potential at the Federation Cup in Mangalore by winning her first senior gold after showing promise as a junior. She also was at loggerheads with the Athletics Federation of India earlier this year because she wanted to train with coach Tarun Shah who was not part of the national camp at that point in time. However, Shah has now been included into the national camp fold and things are now looking up for Nanda.