No matter what she achieves in future, to Dutee Chand will go the credit of bringing back the thrill that many Indians felt when they first watched P.T. Usha sprint. In breaking Rachita Mistry’s 100m record after 16 years, Chand has ensured that hers doesn’t remain a story of a dogged battle to earn the right to run, after she was barred from competing on grounds of hyperandrogenism. She’s back on track, literally and metaphorically. And now all the chatter will be centred on running timings and the Olympic qualification. A 0.01 second miss in qualification for the 100m has made her 200m run all the more dramatic.
In the lead up to the Olympics, Dutee is the first of many encouraging signs for Indian athletics. It’s no longer just the preserve of Kerala runners and Punjab throwers. This week, Amiya Mallik, a talented sprinter from Bhubaneswar also broke the national record in men’s 100m, backed by individual enterprise and training in Jamaica under Usain Bolt’s coach. There’s also Neeraj Chopra, a joint record-holder in javelin, just 18, of whom much will be heard in the coming months and years. And Tejinderpal Singh, who threw 19.93 in the first meet of the season. Several promising juniors are busting myths, and their guts too. The old sob story about government neglect and official apathy is no more part of the trackside narrative.
However, these are just qualifications to Rio. Indian athletics is a mere speck on the world map and a podium finish at the Olympics is a distant dream. But it will be exhilarating to follow these names when they compete against the best in the world.
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