Can Hima Das Gold win the Olympics
Growing up in the hamlets of Assam, Hima Das always dreamt of making it big as a footballer. But as fate would have it, she turned out to be the toast of India’s sprinting world instead.
At the IAAF World Under-20 Championships 2018 at Tampere, Finland, Hima Das etched her name in Indian sports ’history by becoming the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal at an international track event. She hasn't looked back since then.
Born to rice farmers in the Kandhulimari village - near the town of Dhing - in India’s northeastern state of Assam, Hima was the youngest of five siblings.
Smitten by football since she was a child, Hima always wanted to pursue the beautiful game as a career. But while playing for her school, her raw pace caught the attention of her physical education teacher.
On her teacher's insistence, Hima agreed to give athletics a try and fate took its turn. The "Dhing Express", as she would later come to be known, took rapid strides and within a very short time, became one of the most highly-rated runners nationally.
Several top performances at the junior national levels meant Hima’s talent couldn't be ignored anymore and soon enough, she made her international debut at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
Though the 100m and 200m were her pet events early on, the then 18-year-old Hima ran the 400m in Australia and finished a respectable sixth.
A couple of months later, at the IAAF World U20 Championships, she graduated from being a prodigious talent to an overnight sensation with a gold medal win in the 400m event, beating USA’s youth champion Taylor Manson.
Hima and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra are the only Indians to win gold medals at the Junior World Athletics Championships.
The Indian sprinter continued impressing in her breakthrough year. Hima Das won the silver medal in the women’s 400m at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. In the finals, she clocked 50.79 seconds - a national record till date.
Hima was also part of the women’s 4x400m and 4x400m mixed relay teams which bagged Asian Games golds at Jakarta. The Dhing Express was conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award the same year.
As the new year rolled in, Hima shifted gears. From July 2019 onwards, she went on an incredible run in different tournaments in Europe, winning five gold medals in a period of just 19 days.
A 200m gold medal at the Poznan Athletics Grand Prix in Poland set the ball rolling followed by a second at the Kutno Athletics meet in the same country. She went on to win three more - two in 200m and one in 400m - at different athletics meets in the Czech Republic.
Just a month after her brilliant run, Hima won the 300m event at the Athleticky Mitink Reiter in the Czech Republic, further fortifying her other nickname - the Golden Girl.
A journey that had started with Hima breezing past her village’s rice fields barefooted had transformed into a brand that projected youth and pace.
Soon enough, sports management companies were at her doorstep with lucrative deals. Street smart and with a style of her own, Hima Das had become a hot property very much like world badminton champion PV Sindhu did.
A top sportswear brand even manufactured running shoes with her name embossed on them.
“Before my first nationals, my father brought running shoes with spikes on them. It was just a normal pair. I wrote a brand name on the shoes with my hand. You never know what fate can do, they are now making shoes with my name, ”Hima said.
But then the life of a sportsperson is full of twists and turns. She had pulled up in the 400m heats of the Asian championships in Doha in August 2019. After it was detected that Hima was carrying a serious back injury (lumbar spondylitis) for long, she had to miss the 2019 world championships.
Then the COVID pandemic threw a spanner in the works, leaving Hima Das in a challenging position to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in July-August 2021.
This time, Hima is seriously running against the clock. But the feisty athlete is not giving up.
“I believe life is all about making a comeback and working towards your goals. As an athlete, it's very important to stay focused towards your goals and keep working hard. Definitely, the goal is to win an Olympic medal, "Hima was quoted by the Times of India.
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