GUWAHATI: It was late at night on Thursday and raining heavily. The family members of Hima Das knew that their girl was competing in the women’s 400m final at the World Junior Athletics Championship.
The rest of the inhabitants of Dhing village in Assam’s Nagaon district were fast asleep when their girl next door ran into history in Finland’s Tampere.
It was only on Friday morning when the news of Hima’s success broke, did Dhing start celebrating. Neighbours thronged the Das household, crackers were burst and sweets were distributed. The party continued till the afternoon.
“We haven’t spoken to her yet. Cell phone signals aren’t strong here. But we all celebrated,” said Joy Das, Hima’s cousin.
People close to the athlete remember a hard-working girl, who had made heads turn at a young age. Working at her father’s paddy fields, Hima used to carry sacks of crop on her head. Come hell or high water, it was a regular ritual, which hardened her for rigours on the track.
“She can work really hard. I haven’t come across such a hard-working girl,” said coach Nipon Das. “She would carry home sacks of paddy from the field no matter how heavy they were,” said Dibyajyoti, a resident of Dhing.
It’s well known now that the athlete wanted to become a footballer in her younger days and trained all her energies on that. She switched to athletics on the advice of Samsul Haque, one of her teachers at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya. It may sound unbelievable, but she has struck gold roughly two years after taking to the track.
“I brought her to Guwahati in January last year and arranged for her stay there. We showed her the way by giving her proper training. That was the turning point in her life. Prior to leaving for Finland, she told me ‘Sir, I will bring gold for you’. She has kept the promise,” said Nipon, an employee of the state directorate of sports.
Sports is not a popular pursuit for children from her background, but Hima’s family was supportive all along. “I am very happy that my daughter has made Indians proud. I appeal to people to bless her so that she can bring more laurels to the country,” said her father, Ranjit Das. Mother Jonali didn’t say much. “We just pray she gets more success in life.”
Eldest of four siblings, Hima grew up in a joint family. Her father’s brothers also live in the same house. Locals say that but for encouragement from her near ones, she would have struggled to pursue her dream.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was among those to congratulate her. “The people of Assam and the country are proud of Hima. The state government will felicitate her on her return,” he said.
Congratulating her, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi announced Rs 1 lakh from a trust that is run in the name of his parents.
Jakhar finishes sixth
Ashish Jakhar finished sixth in men’s hammer throw at the World Junior Athletics Championship on Friday. He recorded a best of 74.59m.
Two more made it to the finals. Kamalraj made the cut in the triple jump with an effort of 15.98m and Sahil Silwal reached the javelin final throwing 73.22m.
Sapna Kumari failed to qualify from heat 3 in women’s 100m hurdles. She clocked 14.15 seconds.