As Srabani Nanda handed over the baton to Dutee Chand for the final lap, the Railways team had started to celebrate. It was the women’s 4x100m relay final and Srabani had a brilliant race to secure a strong advantage over ONGC’s MR Poovamma. And once Dutee took the baton, winning became a formality. The Railways clinched gold with a time of 45.92 seconds, while ONGC took the silver, way behind at 47.30 seconds.
Dutee was the star attraction, as she completed the treble. The 19-year-old athlete had earlier won the women’s 100 and 200 metre sprints at the 55th National Open Athletics Championships that concluded at the Sports Authority of India complex in Salt Lake on Saturday.
It was quite a comeback for the girl from Orissa. Not many moons ago, Dutee had been staring at an uncertain future.
Now she has started dreaming about taking part in Rio Olympics. Sola Vista Academy in the United States is likely to be her next destination as she begins the process in earnest to secure an Olympic berth. She’s hopeful that the Union sports ministry will once again extend all help.
Earlier in the day, Dutee had featured in the women’s 200 metre final and won it comfortably. But the timing, 23.69s, was well below her personal best of 23.56 seconds. The Salt Lake SAI track was a reason.
It was too hard for the athletes’ comfort, but Dutee didn’t offer any excuse. “It was my comeback Open Nationals after the ban was lifted and I didn’t have proper preparation time. This meet was all about regaining the confidence and I’m happy with the way I performed,” she said.
“It’s the (re) start of a process and I will get better. I’m targeting the Rio Olympics and want to go to the Sola Vista Academy in January. I’ve already written to the sports ministry and they’ve always stood by me,” she added.
Another athlete, answering to the name of Tintu Luka, lit up the show in the final event of the day. She won the gold in the women’s 800 metres final, clocking 2:00:56 seconds. It was a new meet record, surpassing Rosa Kutty’s 2:01:06. “I’ve already qualified for the Rio Olympics but this is my fastest in India,” said Tintu. Silver medallist Gomathi finished at 2:06.29, such was the margin between the first and second.
The Services 4×400 metres men’s relay team comprising V Sajin, Sumit Kumar, M Anas and Arokya Rajeev, also set a new meet record, clocking 3:06.63, but their team finished third in the overall standings with 174.5 points.
Railways emerged champions with 267 points, while the second place went to ONGC, who finished with 185 points.
Pitching in for Pinki
The West Bengal Athletics Association (WBAA) has forwarded a letter to the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), requesting the parent body to bring Pinki Pramanik back to the fold. The 29-year-old sprinter has been cleared by the Calcutta High Court of rape charges levelled by another woman, but Pramanik, who dropped in at the Salt Lake SAI on the final day of the National Open Athletics, still hasn’t got her registration back.