This week has been extraordinarily special for India, as two of its women athletes, Dutee Chand and Hima Das, have brought laurels in a row. Affectionately called as ”The Dhing Express,” Hima has gone into winning her second international gold in women’s 200m with a top finish at the Kutno Athletics meet in Poland. Previously, she clocked 23.65s and won her first gold in the Poznan Athletics Grand Prix, also in Poland.
When Hima decided to forgo her desire of pursuing football, due to certain circumstances, little did she know that she will become India’s new track sensation. Hima holds the current Indian National Record in 400m with a timing of 50.97s, which she notched up at 2018 Asian Games. She is also the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal in a track event at the The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World U20 Championships.
Hima was born in Kandhulimari village, near the town of Dhing, in the north-east Indian state of Assam. Her parents are farmers, and she is the youngest of their five children. Hima was eager to pursue a career in football, since she had always loved the sport. But given the limited prospects of women’s football in India, she decided to switch to sprint running, upon the advice of her teacher, Shamsul Hoque.
Hima was selected for the district trials in 2013, but she could not produce her birth certificate, due to a fire, which broke into her house and destroyed her documents. The failure to represent Nagaon district brought Hima to a point from where she began working even harder. She used this opportunity to get used to a pair of running shoes with a metal spike, which she had received during the Nagaon Trials.
She is the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal in a track event at the The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World U20 Championships.
She practiced running at the village ground before the villagers let out their cattle loose, both at dawn and after dusk. She represented Nagaon in 2014 but could not make it to the top. She earned a bronze in 100m in 2015 inter-district tournament, in north-central Assam’s Dhekiajuli.
”Her journey to the big league began with her 100m bronze medal at the 2016-2017 Khelo India event. She would soon be known as the girl who chases time,” says Hoque, her teacher.
Hima had led a group of women in protesting against one of her neighbours’ illicit liquor unit, at the age of 15. She was threatened by a member of the vendor’s family, but she was unafraid and valiant. She was also a leader of the local unit of All Assam’s Students’ Union and organized rallies for protesting the Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2016, which many in Assam feared was discriminatory. She was also appointed as the first ever Youth Ambassador of UNICEF India, reflecting upon which she said that she was honoured to be chosen for the title, and she promised to inspire more children to follow their dreams.
She was also a leader of the local unit of All Assam’s Students’ Union and organized rallies for protesting the Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2016, which many in Assam feared was discriminatory.
Das’ Family was glued to the TV set when she performed at Tampere (IAAF), in 2018, where she created history by becoming the first athlete to win gold in track event at the international level. The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, presented her with the Arjuna Award, in 2018, given by the Ministry of Youth affairs and Sports, Government of India, to recognize her outstanding achievement in sports. Presently, she is also Assam’s brand ambassador for sports.
She is just 19 and has set out on an unflagging journey of sheer excellence. This is a moment of immense pride for India to see such young women conquer athletic tournaments around the world, despite confronting multiple hurdles in their lives.
Featured Image Source: DNA India