Hima Das is making waves at international meets but we must keep expectations in check as she has to peak standards
he news that Hima Das won a string of athletic meets during the European summer season was heartening. The girl from Assam, who watched from afar as her State was ravaged by floods and even donated her winnings to emergency funds for river refugees, is making headlines. Yet Das, who came into prominence after winning the 400 metre sprint at the Under-20 Championships last summer and won four straight 200 metre events in Europe just now, has not qualified for the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships that take place later this summer. Das might have won plaudits but the fact is that her timings are not good enough for the big leagues. Much work remains to be done for her and several other Indian athletes, including sprinter Dutee Chand. Muhhamed Anas, sprinter in the men’s 400 metres, has, however, qualified for the World Championships. The tremendous media hype around Das, therefore, should be a bit tempered.
That said, Das is the first female athlete in ages who has the Indian public engrossed in athletics. For years at major international competitions like the IAAF World Championships and the Olympics, Indian athletes did not register even as a blip among the competitors, truly a matter of shame for this vast nation, one that has tremendous potential. Like Das, young javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is making waves in his event and should be a shoo-in to qualify for both the World Championships and the Tokyo Olympics. His athletic prowess has been built on the back of intense training and competition, particularly abroad. It is, therefore, vital that Das keeps on attending meets abroad where she will get some good competition. And hopefully, her ambitions to qualify for the World Championships in Doha and for the Tokyo Olympics come true and not just that, she progresses and becomes even better as she gets into the prime of her career in the next half-decade. Most sprinters peak in their late 20s and Das is just 19. Credit must also go to the tremendous work put in by the Sports Ministry and the Khelo India and Olympic Gold Quest programmes, which have nourished young athletes and are building a credible contingent of talent across disciplines who can go out there and win medals. Athletes like Das will play a critical role in ensuring that India does not make up the numbers at global meets or is ranked at the bottom of the medals tally. Onwards and upwards towards Gold.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer