“Daughter of poor weaver” becomes first Indian after PT Usha to qualify for 100m in the OlympicsBinjal Shah
The last time an Indian contested the Olympics’ 100-m sprint was PT Usha, as long as 36 years ago, in the 1980 Moscow Games. Her heiress is a daughter of a poor weaver from Odisha, who has seen it all – defeat, controversy and injustice – to be able to represent India at the prestigious four-yearly contest. The 20-year-old Dutee Chand is India’s fastest sprinter, who breached the Olympic qualifying record of 11.32 seconds, by completing a 100m sprint in 11.30, at a qualifier event in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“I am really happy at the moment. It has been a tough year for me and I am so happy that my coach Ramesh sir’s and my hard work has paid off,” Dutee Chand said, on the occasion.
“I would like to thank all the people in India who were praying for me to qualify. Your wishes have paid off. I will not let anyone down at the Olympics”, she added.
Dutee had earlier missed the mark by one-hundredth of a second in a local meet. She claimed that the government’s negligence and unwillingness to let her train abroad sooner was the cause behind her inadequate performance.
Born to a poor weaver couple in Odisha, Dutee honed her talent tirelessly to beat the odds and rise from her circumstances to become the national champion in the under-18 category, where she clocked 11.8 seconds in the 100m event. In the 2013 World Youth Championships, she was also the first Indian to reach the global athletics 100m final. She beat her own best, clocking 11.73 seconds in the final in 100m and 23.73 seconds in 200m at the National Senior Athletics Championships in Ranchi.
However, even before her walk of fame could begin, Dutee was embroiled in controversy and was prevented from competing in the Commonwealth Games due to a condition called ‘hyperandrogenism’ –that is, having a higher level of testosterone than was permissible in a woman athlete, according to the IAAF hyperandrogenism laws in 2014. But women’s rights activists and her contemporaries, like Santhi Soundarajan, came to her aid and protested this ruling vehemently until a historic verdict in 2015 by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) ruled in her favour, thereby allowing her to compete again.
This process stretched out over a year, resulting in mental turmoil as well as inability to spend enough time on the track to practice. But, she made up for lost time like the “queen sprinter” she is hailed to be, and is well on her way to achieving greatness for herself and her country. With Dutee’s qualification, India’s Olympic contingent is now 99-strong, with athletes across various other categories.