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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Dutee Chand fights odds; qualifies for Rio Olympics

My favourite writer genius  Sujatha wrote a novel in Kumudam titled ’10 second mutham’ – a story of an Indian female athlete who is trained to break the barrier of 10 seconds and her emotional relationship with the coach formed the nucleus of that story. .. .. that came in Kumudam immediately after Asiad 1982 – vividly recall the names of Charles Borromeo winning 800m Gold and MD Valsamma winning Gold in 400m hurdles ~ that was the time when perhaps we first heard about PT Usha, who went on to become Payyoli Express. 
Last week there was the news of  Indian athlete Dutee Chand clocking 11.47 in the 100m event to finish with silver, falling well short of the Olympic qualification norm of 11.32 at an international meet in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  It was stated that the track was damaged in most parts which impeded her speed.  

Fortunately that was not the end ~ Sprinter Dutee Chand on Saturday became the first-ever Indian woman to qualify for the Olympics in the 100m (after qualifying marks were introduced in 2000) as she made it to Rio with a timing of 11.30 seconds (qualifying mark is 11.32s) in the heats at the 26th  Kosonov memorial international athletic meet in Almaty (Kazakhstan). “The fact that I broke the National record in the process is even more special in this regard,” remarked Dutee.

Dutee Chand qualified for Rio Olympics in the women’s 100m event is great news as she clocked 11.30s in the 100m heats at the memorial tournament hence beating the Rio Olympics qualification mark of 11.32 secs. Dutee Chand has been through hell and back over the last two years. From a point where her career seemed over and even her identity was called into question, the sprinter’s redemption was complete and a remarkable achievement for somebody hailing from a humble family in Gopalpur, Odisha. 

As she was sprinting her way to becoming one of India’s best athletes, her flight was brutally cut short by a hyper-androgenism case, which deemed her unfit to compete as a female athlete.  She was prevented from competing in 2014 for failing a hormone test under the IAAF's rules on hyperandrogenism, a condition which produces higher than normal testosterone levels in women. Chand successfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who suspended the regulations for two years to allow the IAAF to gather evidence as to whether athletes with hyperandrogenism do gain any performance advantage. Chand's battle against the International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) hyperandrogenism rules came five years after South African athleteCaster Semenya was subject to gender tests.

Since returning to the track after winning the case, Dutee has been in scintillating form. She has been utterly dominant on the domestic circuit, and was impressive in meets overseas as well.  The Rio berth that kept eluding the 20-year-old, until Saturday, has become a reality.  Maybe the relatively cooler weather in Almaty helped Dutee’s cause.  She is the 20th Indian track and field athlete to have qualified for the Rio Games, and takes the total strength of the Indian Olympic contingent to 99.

The legendary Usha managed 12.27secs in her heat at the Moscow Games and did not advance.  Even though Duttee’s  personal best may not be enough for a medal in Rio, Dutee has done the country proud in the manner she battled and overcame adversity.  The best timings in the women’s 100m this season are around the 10.80s mark.  If Dutee manages to clock her personal best at the Olympics, she is likely to get into the semi-finals.  She is a winner already !

Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha, from Kerala, first gained international attention at the 1982 Delhi Asian Games as she won the silver medal in both the 100 metres and 200 metres events. Four years later she dominated the field at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul.  At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, she finished first in the semi-finals of the 400 metres hurdles, but narrowly missed a medal in the finals, reminiscent of Milkha Singh's 1960 defeat. There was a nail-biting photo finish for the third place.  Usha lost the bronze by 1/100th of a second. In the 10th  Asian Games held at Seoul in 1986, P. T. Usha won 4 gold medals and 1 silver medal in the track and field events.

Wishing Dutee Chand a wonderful performance and a medal for India in Rio Olympics.
With regards – S. Sampathkumar

26th June 2016.

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