Dutee Chand smashed the 100m national record and India opened their account at the Asian Athletics Championships with four medals on Sunday, but arguably the most significant, and by far the most worrying, event on the opening day was Hima Das hobbling off injured in the middle of her heats.
The Assam athlete was running her 400m preliminary race when she had to pull out due to a lower back spasm. After a break to take care of her academic pursuits, Hima was slowly getting back into the groove. With the World Championships also slated later this year, there will be much concern about her recovery and return to top form.
Hima is the world junior champion and national record holder and at the very least, the injury cast doubts over her availability for other events in the championship where India could reasonably expect a good haul of medals.
The Indian contingent, though, tried to underplay the incident. “She had spasm at L4 and L5 (two lowest vertebrae in the lumbar spine). The doctor who attended her informed us and he said nothing serious. She will be OK within a day or two,” deputy chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair said in a statement.
But the injury has put in doubt Hima’s participation in the mixed 400m relay on Tuesday and women’s 4x400m relay on Wednesday. These events have been traditional sources of medals for India and Hima’s possible absence could jeopardise those chances. This is not the first time she has complained of back problems.
Hima was a part of the women’s 4x400m relay team that clinched the gold medal at the Jakarta Asian Games. She also won two silver medals – in the individual 400m and the mixed relay. It is due to this record that the Indian contingent will be concerned and hoping that Hima’s injury is not too serious and she can compete effectively in her remaining events.
Four medals on first day
Javelin thrower Annu Rani managed to send the spear 60.22m away to clinch the silver medal behind China’s Lyu Huihui (65.83m). The 26-year-old Indian, who has already made the cut for the world championships that will be held at the same venue in September-October, however, couldn’t get near her mark of 62.34m at the Federation Cup in Patiala last month, that got her into the elite event. “I was keen on doing well as I knew I had trained well for the event. I was pumped up and would have got my career best had I not thrown from far behind the line,” Annu said.
The other Indian in the fray, Sharmila Kumari finished seventh with a best throw of 54.48m. Avinash Sable was the only Indian male athlete to bring home a medal on Sunday, when he won a silver in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase in 8:30.19.
Parul Choudhary, the 24-year-old long-distance runner, added another medal to the Indian kitty when she finshed third in the women’s 5,000m clocking 15 minutes, 36.03 seconds, a personal best. She improved upon her earlier personal best of 15:58.35 which she had clocked during the Federation Cup last month. “I did not worry about the leaders stepping up the pace. I ran according to plan and how my body felt,” Parul said.
Bahrain took both the gold and silver through Mutile Winfred Yavi (15:28.87) and Bontu Rebitu (15:29.60). MR Poovamma, who had finished second behind Bahrain’s Salwa Naser, the 400m gold favourite, in her heat, clocking 52.46 seconds, to qualify for the final round, returned to win a bronze for the country, though her timing of 53.21 seconds was someway below her effort earlier in the day.
Dutee rewrites record
Dutee is her own competition as far as women’s 100m in India is concerned. And the Odisha sprinter broke her own national record at the Khalifa Stadium when she bettered her own mark of 11.29 seconds set in Guwahati last year by a hundredth of a second as she made it to the semifinals. But Dutee couldn’t reach the 11.24 seconds, the qualification mark set for the world championships.
Dutee, who has had to fight a long legal battle against the International Association of Athletics Federations’ hyperandrogenism rule to compete, has been impressive of late and clinched two silver medals for India at last year’s Jakarta Asian Games in the 100m and 200m. She has two bronze from the 2017 edition of the Asian championships – in the 100m and the 4x100m relay. Here too, she is a genuine contender for medals in these two events.