Dutee Chand marked her return to track, having won a landmark gender case at Court of Arbitration for Sport, with a gold in the women’s 100 metres at the 55th National Open Athletics Championships at the Sports Authority of India complex in Salt Lake.
She won with a time of 11.68 seconds, a tad below her personal best of 11.62, clocked at the World Youths in 2013. It was also well below the Olympic qualification mark of 11.32 seconds. But it was a hugely significant performance, given that it was her first open nationals since the Lausanne-based court gave its verdict in July.
“I was under pressure, coming into this event. A little nervous as well. I didn’t perform at my peak, for I knew I could get better. But this win will give me the confidence and now I can write to the sports ministry, requesting them to get me into the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme for the 2016 Rio Olympics. It will help me go and train abroad,” the 19-year-old said after the race. Dutee’s coach N Ramesh, however, is targeting the 200 metres as a realistic hope for the Olympics. “Her personal best in 200m is 23.56 seconds, while the Olympic qualification mark is 23.20. So, with a little bit of effort, she can secure the berth. The event starts tomorrow and Dutee has to be at her best,” Ramesh said.
The SAI coach spotted her in 2009 during an age-group event. Three years down the line he took her to the Patiala camp. “Dutee was progressing very well but the ban was a huge blow. She was supposed to land in Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She landed up in Orissa (Dutee’s village in Ganjam district) shattered and broken. It was a very difficult phase of her career. Her friends started to doubt her. Her teammates refused to share rooms with her. Dutee comes from a very poor family. Her parents are cotton weavers and she had reached almost the point of no return,” Ramesh recounted. It was Dutee’s second 100m gold in the open nationals. She had earlier won it in 2013. For the record, Srabani Nanda of Railways won the silver in women’s 100m, clocking 11.70 seconds, while HM Jyoti from Karnataka took the bronze at 11.96.
On Day 2, there were three new meet records. Inderjeet Singh set the new record in men’s shot put, with a throw of 19.82m, while Neeraj Chopra hurled the men’s javelin (800 gms) to a distance of 77.67m. Lalita Babar timed 9:39.83s in women’s 3,000m steeplechase to set the third record.