HYDERABAD: Dutee Chand is back on the track after a period of confusion and dilemma. With the Sword of Damocles hanging precariously over her head over her gender, she is slowly and steadily regaining her composure, confidence and rhythm. The 19-year-old Odisha-born athlete quietly shifted to Hyderabad to practice under national coach N Ramesh at the GMC Balayogi Athletic Stadium.
The national sprint champion was omitted from the Commonwealth Games squad last year after the Athletic Federation of India (AFI) claimed that hyperandrogenism made her ineligible to compete as a female athlete. The shattered athlete, who has been allowed to take part in the national meets, is still awaiting the green signal from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
One of the six daughters of a weaver, Dutee, an employee with Western Railway, had the instincts of a gazelle from childhood. She just loved to run and run fast. Her ultimate desire was to represent the country in the Olympics. Now that she is in safe hands, she hopes to turn the tables.
Talking about Hyderabad, Dutee says her first tryst with the city was in 2012 Open Nationals. “I liked the ambience. The atmosphere is serene. I never thought I would be coming back again. But here I am. This time I’m with coach Ramesh, who has been my guide and philosopher. He has taught me to be patient. He is a very good teacher. He gets the best out of you,’’ she gushes.
The athlete who has got support from Union Sports Ministry, has kind words for Sports Authority of India director Injeti Srinivas. “The SAI not only allowed me to practice under Ramesh but also ensured that I got accommodation at the Pullela Gopichand Academy. They are very helpful and I have been treated very nicely,’’ she says.
While the bad memories remain, Dutee has not given up hope. “I cried a lot when I missed the CWG meet at Glasgow. I was in good rhythm but every thing went upside down. A few people like Ramesh consoled and assured me that all would be well,’’ she recalls.
Touted as one of the biggest hopes for India, Dutee had once touched 23.56 at the Junior Asian Athletic meet at Taipei in 2014 and is now practicing hard to get back to her old form. “For at least a year, I did not practice and I mostly did some warm up exercises,’’ she says.
Ramesh agrees that Dutee has a lot to learn. “She has to be patient. She is only 19 years old and that is her biggest advantage. She is also a very disciplined athlete,” the coach says. Since Dutee has already participated in the recent Nationals and Federation Cup meets, the focus is now on 100 metres instead of the 200 metres. “Things will be done in a phased manner and by next season, she will get back to her form in 200 metres. She loves competition and has a very good technique. She also has smooth strides,’’ Ramesh adds.
Dutee says she is happy about her comeback trail. Though she ran 11.7 seconds in the nationals but had a poor timing in 200 metres, Ramesh says he is not disturbed with the present timing of over 24 seconds in 200 metres.
Both Dutee and Ramesh know the race has just begun and they have not lost the Olympics hope. “She has to touch 23.20, the qualifying mark for Olympics. She has the potential. It is a matter of hard work, concentration and discipline. She proved that she is a champion athlete in the Nationals and Federation Cup. That has given an assurance,’’ says Ramesh.
Though uncertainty loom large, Dutee is confident as she says, “Yes, there is uncertainty over my future but I have not lost hope. I believe in destiny.’’