Run, Dutee, Run!

Shriya Mohan New Delhi | Updated on March 08, 2020

Award-winning athlete Dutee Chand   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Founder-Editor of BusinessLine K Venugopal (right) presenting a memento to Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Dutee Chand, India’s fastest sprinter, is the Changemaker of the Year

At the living room of her home in Patia, Bhubaneswar, Dutee Chand’s glass showcase spills over with trophies, awards and citations. The acclaim and recognition though continue unabated. At the award ceremony of the Business Line Changemaker Awards, hosted last evening at the capital, Chand was awarded Changemaker of the year jointly with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) for bringing far-reaching change in society. “It wasn’t easy to become a sportsperson,” Chand said to a packed audience, dressed in a dapper blue suit, wearing a big smile.

Chand is India’s fastest female sprinter who has a national record of clocking a 100-m dash in 11.22 seconds. Presently, she is training to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and shave her timing down to 11.15 seconds. “Every micro second makes or breaks a gold,” she said. After receiving the award from Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, Chand gave an inspirational speech in which she spoke about her humble beginnings at Odisha’s Gopalpur village.

Born into a weaving family and one of seven siblings, Chand says sports, for her, was a way out of poverty. “I realised early that we don’t have the luxury of studying and rising up in life. Sports was the only way out,” she said.

It was her elder sister Saraswati who sparked a passion in athletics for Chand. Together the sisters would run barefoot on the banks of the Brahmani river that flowed through her village. “People said ‘you’re a girl, what’ll you get from running’?” she recalled. “We had no training ground, no coaches, no proper diet. It was my iccha shakti (will power) that convinced me that I had to keep running to make my country proud,” she said.

At 17, she was the first Indian to have reached the 100m finals at the International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF) World Youth Championships. In 2014, she was the first Indian athlete to win two gold medals at the Asian Junior Championships in Taiwan. She was a national champion in the 100m and 200m race.

But the year 2014 was a turning point for Chand. Just ahead of the Commonwealth Games and Asian games that year, she was found to have hyperandrogenism, a condition where a female produces more than usual levels of testosterone.

“Only girls have to prove that they are girls,” she says recalling how the media reports crushed her then by stating that she had failed a gender test and was actually a boy.

Chand decided to fight and challenge the ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland. Her appeal was the first to challenge rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). “It’s not my fault. I’ve never failed a doping test in my life,” she said. It took two years to win the case. “Everybody thought I had disappeared but I returned with a bang,” she said to much applause.

“It’s been 15 years in sports. I’ve won 1,500 medals at a national level and 25 medals in international competitions. I’m the only athlete who has crossed my own record ten times. I’m the fastest woman runner in this country,” she beamed.


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Published on March 06, 2020
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