Dutee Chand is sprinting hard and she has her aim set —the coveted gold medal at the Rio Olympics where she would compete in the 100-metre event, the first Indian woman to do so in 36 years.
Dutee has brought her chequered career back on track by clinching Olympic qualification earlier this month with a national record. This 20-year-old from Odisha is now aiming to do what no Indian athlete has managed so far —win a gold medal at ‘the greatest show on earth’.
“I will compete with the best sprinters in the world. So, I am taking rigorous training and devoting all my time towards better performance and clinch the gold medal at the Olympics,” said in an interview.
“Even though it is not very easy to win a medal at the Olympics, I will put in my heart and soul and ensure that I give my best,” she added. However, the ace sprinter is unhappy with the lack of support from the government and asserted that more should be done to encourage Indian athletes.
“Odisha Chief Minister (Naveen Patnaik) wished me for the Olympics. With his good wishes and blessings, I would definitely try to win a gold medal at the Rio Olympics. But my main concern is to acquire a new pair of spike shoes, as mine are worn out. The running shoes are quite expensive, and I request the state government to provide a set of tracksuit and a pair of running shoes so that I could give my best performance,” Dutee said.
“I feel sad when I ask for help from the government. I have brought laurels to the state and the country. Then why should I request for help? I feel like a beggar. The government should provide assistance on its own, but I have to beg before it,” she rued. It was a remarkable comeback for the young athlete who has battled adversity all her life. Hailing from a poor family of weavers from Gopalpur village in Jajpur district of Odisha, the athlete has defeated all obstacles to reach the pinnacle of her sport.
Just two years back she was banned for an indefinite period under the guidelines of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that debar athletes with hyperandrogenism — excessive but naturally occurring testosterone —in the women’s category.
The then 18-year-old had won two gold medals at the Asian Junior Athletics Championship in Taiwan and was looking forward to competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when her name was struck off the team list at the last minute after the Athletic Federation of India (AFI) stated that hyperandrogenism made her ineligible to compete as a female athlete. The decisions by the AFI and IAAF were widely criticised as an affront to Dutee’s privacy and human rights.
To her credit, despite seeing the entire world crashing all around her, Dutee did not give up. She won the right to compete again only in July last year after a landmark legal battle at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Returning to the track after more than a year, Dutee missed the Olympic mark by one-hundredth of a second at the athletics Grand Prix in the capital and went on to produce a few indifferent performances at various qualifying meets.
“I was pulled out from the Commonwealth contingent in 2014 due to the hyperandrogenism regulations of the IAAF. Even though it has no effect on my career, it affected my training,” Dutee said.