It’s been just two years since she won a historic U-20 World Championships gold in Finland. Hima Das is already an established brand. Hailing from a nondescript village in Assam, she stormed into the world of athletics. Many expected her to rule for a while.
But hardly a year after her success at the U-20 Worlds and Asian Games, Hima’s world crumbled due to a back injury. She had to endure a stifling 2019, when recovery was slow. Almost simultaneously, shifting from her favourite 400m to 200m came under intense scrutiny. Now, even the Athletics Federation of India doesn’t want to ‘risk’ her in 400m. In an informal chat from Patiala, Hima talks about injury, choosing between 200m and 400m and the Olympics.
Between the U-20 World Championship gold and now, any other achievement you recollect fondly?
I recollect the World Championship gold quite fondly. But then, for me, it was all about running. I never thought I would be participating at the World Championships, forget gold. I went there to gain experience ahead of the Asian Championships and you know about my performance there. Asian Games was a high. After that, I have not participated in any major event because of the injury.
Your next target?
Next target will be Olympics (postponed to 2021). I participated in the Doha Asian track and field meet where I injured my back. It was bad. While recovering, we didn’t know whether I would be able to run 100m, 200m or 400m. I faced problems initially. It’s not about 200m. Whatever the
federation and coach want me to concentrate on, I will do that.
Are you not facing any problem in 200m?
Right now I am fit. Until and unless I participate in competitions, I won’t be able to assess whether to run 200m or 400m. I love running and want to run, whether it is 400m or 200m, or even 100m. Right now, training is not too intense.
The Olympics is next year. The domestic season will begin in September and the international season may be early next year. Olympic qualification window is till June 29. What will be your target? 200m or 400m?
First of all, we have started slowly. For days, we didn’t have practice and I think it would be better to wait a little longer. There is still a 50-50 chance that the Olympics will happen. If there is this 14-day quarantine rule, it will be difficult for the athletes also. The federation and the coaches usually take care of athletes. Considering their efforts and the programme, whatever decision the coaches and authorities take, I will abide by it. Whether it is 200m or 400m, it doesn’t matter. I just want to run.
Winning last year in Czech Republic and Poland — though these were modest competitions — were you satisfied with your results?
Whether it is Poland or anywhere else, the game is never small or big for me. Whether it is 200m or 400m, doesn’t matter. I love to run and that’s always my priority. Any competition is big. I have to run 400m and 200m. Even in the Olympics if I have to run both, I will give my best. I am satisfied mostly. Sometimes the track doesn’t suit you or you don’t feel well mentally or sometimes the weather is not good. Then it becomes different. Otherwise, if conditions are favourable, then I love running. If I can get my best timing, I feel content. That’s why I say I run after timing, not medals.
How is your injury now?
It’s fine. Recovery is going on. We need some competitions to assess the fitness levels. After some events, we will be able to assess how I have recovered and what is required.
Injury is part of life for an athlete. The person I consider as god, Sachin da (Tendulkar), also got injured. Even (MS) Dhoni sir or Usain Bolt. Sometimes, recovery takes time. If it is a major injury, it takes longer to heal. I am trying my best to recover. I am perfectly fit and practising. But then, practice and competition are different things. We can improve timing during competitions.
Are you homesick?
I remember home but because of Covid-19, it’s not possible to go. Even in Assam it is not good right now. My father too asked me to not come. Who doesn’t want to go home? But then I think about practice. If I don’t practice now, when will I? We are safe here and our sports minister (Kiren) Rijiju sir is helping us. There is no problem of anything and we don’t go out.