For ace sprinter Dutee Chand, the past few weeks have been no less than a roller coaster. Having proved her mettle, both on and off the racing track, she had to still wait to earn her rightful place to represent the country for a second consecutive time at the Olympics. And what helped book her slot for the Tokyo Games, was the national record breaking 11.17 seconds at the Indian Grand Prix in Patiala; held in June end. This time was 0.02 short of the Olympic automatic qualifying mark, but fast enough to place her at the 44th position in the current world ranking for 100 meter. And it also allows her to run in the 200 meter category, where she currently holds the 51st position.
Currently training in Hyderabad, Telangana, the Arjuna awardee says she’s staying away from social media that puts undue pressure on athletes. “Normal dekhe toh koi pressure nahin hai. Par social media Instagram, Twitter pe jaayenge toh zyada pressure hai (laughs). Koi bolta hai ‘Dutee yeh nahin kar payega’, toh koi bolta hai ki ‘Dutee ke upar hope hai, medal layega’. Yeh sab zyada time dekhenge toh mental harrasment ho jayega! Main isliye zyada time nahin dekhti,” she says.
Talk about delay in Olympic qualification or the pandemic, and the 25-year-old says that neither of these were able to deter her determination. She explains, “Covid mein training bahut affect hua. Out of country competitions aur training ke arrangement kar rakhe they [but couldn’t go]. Mera Germany mein teen month training and competition tha, jo Covid-19 situation ki wajah se cancel ho gaya. Jitna improvement hona tha body mein woh nahin ho paaya. Baaki India mein lockdown mein track, gym sab band ho gaya. Morale bhi down ho gaya soch ke ki Olympic toh hoga nahin, phir kyun training karen. Bahar bhi jayenge toh Covid ka saamna karna padta tha. Darr tha man mein; issi darr ki wajah se coaches, physiotherapist nahin aate they. Koi running partner bhi nahin tha. But maine situation ko face kiya, (ye sochke) ki Olympics mein jana hai. Struggles humesha yaad rehta hai, par hum koshish karte hain aur better karne ka.”
The Odisha-born athlete, who is a two-time Asian Games silver medallist, has participated in several international events such as World Championship, World University Games, Asian Games, and Asian Championship, which helped boost her confidence. Her preparation for Tokyo Olympics, she says, began last November, and she’s presently training five to six hours daily. “Training to ache se kiya maine, isliye ache se perform kiya 11.17 seconds mein. Acha competition mil jaayega toh ho sakta hai 11.10 mein bhi bhaag sakti hun. Aisa mann mein rakha hain maine,” she shares, adding, “Motivate karne ke liye main do cheez manti hun — Ek training ko apna duty maanti hun, jaise police afsar ho. Aur sports ko main duty ki tarah hi dekhti hun. Sports ki wajah se log mujhe pehchante hai; mai ise time to time follow karti hun. Dusra, mai wohi kaam karti hun ye soch ke ki mai desh ke liye kuchh kar rahi hun. Mujhe jeetna hai, aur desh ke liye naam raushan karna hai!”
And in between her sprints, what’s helping her unwind are Odiya songs! She’s also watching her career’s best performances so far, to figure out strategy and best timings. “Kahan galti hui thi woh analyse kar rahi hun. Movie aur sab bilkul nahin dekh sakti. Only songs sunti hun, aur mind ko relax karti hun,” she signs off.
Author tweets @Nainaarora8
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