BHUBANESWAR: She hung on, undeterred by the hurdles. And about a year after she was cleared by an international sports arbitration court to sprint again, Dutee Chand has achieved what she had set out to.
On Saturday, the 20-year-old sprinter from Odisha qualified for the Rio Olympics in the Women’s 100 metre event after meeting the qualification marks at the XXVI International Meeting in Kazakhstan. She clocked 11.30 seconds in the 100m heats beating the Rio Olympics qualification mark of 11.32 seconds and created history to be the first Indian women sprinter to participate an Olympics 100 metre individual event.
Dutee also rewrote the national record G. Kosanov Memorial Meet in Kazakhstan’s Almaty. “I feel extremely happy and would like to thank all the people in India who were praying for me to qualify. Your wishes have paid off,” Dutee said.
She admits the journey was full of hardships and the most traumatic part was when she was pulled out from the Commonwealth Games Squad and suspended for having testosterone levels higher than permissible in a woman athlete as per the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) norms. “I fought tooth and nail to get back to the track and in a historical verdict, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) ruled in my favour allowing me to compete again. My career took a new shape with the help of my coach Ramesh sir. His motivation helped me fulfill the dream,” she said.
After she returned to the tracks, Dutee has been relentless in her endeavour, leaving no opportunity to qualify for the Olympics. In the Federation Cup National Senior Athletics Championships held at Delhi on April 28, she created a new national record in the women’s 100 metre event, clocking 11.33 second and smashed the Rachita Mistry’s 16-year-old record of 11.38 seconds.
“But I missed the Olympic qualifying mark by hundredth of a second. On that day, my coach told me that not only can I reach the qualifying mark but also have the potential to do better at Rio,” she said. A native of Gopalpur village in Jajpur district of Odisha, Dutee is one of the four daughters of Chakradhar Chand and Akhuji Chand. She drew her first inspiration for the track and field from her elder sister Saraswati Chand who is a sprinter.
Dutee is the third athletes from Odisha to got an opportunity to participate in the Olympics. Earlier, Anuradha Biswal and Rachita Mistry participated in the 4X100 women’s relay event at Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik congratulated Dutee for her achievement. Odisha Cricket Association and Odisha Olympic Association have announced a cash award of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000 respectively for the ace sprinter.