Jakarta: Unable to stop smiling after crying for years, Dutee Chand was sprinting with her “eyes closed” until she had ushered in a new dawn, healing an old wound on the way.
Dropped from India’s Commonwealth Games contingent in 2014 after being rendered ineligible to compete as a female athlete due to hyperandrogenism policy of the world athletics body (IAAF), the last four years of her life have not been easy for the 22-year-old Odisha athlete.
Allowed to race again after being cleared by the Court of Arbitration (CAS), Dutee yesterday achieved the biggest success of her career.
“2014 was very a bad year for me. People said many things abut me. The same girl today came back and won a medal for the country, it is really big achievement for me,” Dutee said after winning a silver medal in the women’s 100m at the Asian Games.
The desperation to achieve something big, to make up for the opportunities lost, was palpable as she spoke about her effort. “In the semifinals, the first 20 metres, I did not push much and coach pointed out that ‘you have to make a better beginning.
So in the final, I rushed the first 40 metres. I was running with eyes closed, whether medal comes or not, I wanted to better my timing.
“When I opened my eyes, the race was over. I did not know what has happened. People said you have won a medal, but I did not believe, I did not pick flag until I saw the result on display screen.”
Dutee could not stop smiling after the win. “It is my biggest medal, I am already 22 and I had never participated at Asian Games before because of hyperandrogenism. It was Olympic for me, I trained for six hours in a session for this.”
Dutee had become only the third Indian to qualify for the women 100m event at the Rio Olympics.
She had timed 11.69 but did not make it to the final. The Athletic Federation of India and IAAF‘ faced flak for violating Dutee’s privacy and human rights.
She appealed to the CAS and in July 2015, it issued a decision to suspend the hyperandrogenism regulation for female track and field sports for two years.
It found that there was insufficient evidence to indicate that there is any link between enhanced androgen levels and improved athletic performance.
The court gave two more years to IAAF to present convincing evidence and if it is not provided within the deadline, the regulation will be automatically revoked.
Dutee’s silver came in 11.32 seconds, the same timing with which she had won gold at the National Games. However, it was slower than her own national record (11.29).
“I was confused, I was not sure if I will win medal because I timed 11:43 in the semifinal, it was too much of strain for body. People assured me, saying God is with you.”