HYDERABAD: It’s 7.30 on a cloudy and windy morning. A diminutive sprinter is pacing through the tracks at the Sports Authority of India facility at GMC Balayogi Stadium. “Try karo beta, ho jaega (try, you can do it),” the coach says. He is asking her to make certain changes in the way she sets off. Orange and yellow cones have been strategically placed on the synthetic track, to mark the distance, each separated by 10 metres. The athlete is accompanied by a few others as they go for sprints in the range of 60-100m. She is not going full throttle, as it is a conditioning exercise. It’s still exhausting. She has been training relentlessly since 6. But she obeys and after a couple of attempts, gets it right. “Wah beta! aise hi karna hai (Bravo! That’s the way to do it),” the coach lets out a scream of joy.
This has been the routine for Dutee Chand and her coach N Ramesh for a while. The only difference these days is that the intensity levels are elevated, considering Jakarta is fast approaching. And in preparation for the Asian Games, she has produced results as well. Last month at the Inter-State Athletics Championship, she broke her own 100m national record of 11.30 seconds by clocking 11.29 seconds.
The quadrennial Asian event will be the Odisha athlete’s first big competition after ‘winning’ the landmark case in the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) against the International Association of Athletics Federations rule in April which prevented female athletes with higher-than-usual levels of testosterone (a condition known as hyperandrogenism) from competing. In revised rules, the limit for circulating testosterone has been reduced from 10 nanomoles per litre to five for those competing in distances between 400m and a mile. Since Dutee does 100 and 200m, she is free to run.
With the monkey off her back, she is undergoing three training sessions a day, instead of the regular two. SAI coach Ramesh, who has been training her since 2012, has different plans almost everyday. “I wake up at 5. Sir then tells me what work I’m going to do that day. The plan varies,” Dutee tells Express after finishing her morning session from 6 to 10. She barely has time to relax, as the second session comprising of core exercises and sometimes swimming is from 11 to 12. The third featuring training on the track and/or the gym is from 4 to 6 in the evening. The first and last sessions are inter-changeable. Sunday is off, while Wednesday and Saturday are half days.
Other than coach Ramesh, Dutee has a physio and masseuse, provided through the SAI-Gopichand Foundation and Mytrah Foundation. With a good enough support staff, India’s fastest woman has one concern — Ramesh’s Jakarta trip is yet to be confirmed. “Sir has been my coach for a long time. His presence obviously helps me in big events. Let’s hope he can come,” says Dutee.
The 22-year-old has been staying at the Pullela Gopichand Academy for about four years. She does not have to pay for services provided. About two kilometres from the stadium, it is also the place where her swimming and gym sessions are held. Ramesh revealed that Gopichand has given Dutee access to the academy’s kitchen to prepare properly for the Asian Games. “Until she leaves for the Games, she can order whatever she wants,” says the Dronacharya award winner.
Asked whether all that has happened put her under pressure, Dutee says, “There was always this fear whether I would ever be able to sprint. Now, that is gone.” To the uninitiated, the cloudy weather might seem pleasant to train in, but it’s actually tougher on the body. “It’s difficult on the muscles when we train in wet or overcast conditions as they become stiff,” she quips. “Hyderabad is quite suitable for sprint training 10 months a year,” adds Ramesh. Morning session done, Dutee packs her bag and obliges a few young athletes, who had been observing her. She then heads straight for the academy. Two more sessions are lined up. Then tomorrow, day after, till the Asian Games. She is on a mission.