Hima Das- DAShing to the Gold

By Garima Verma

The last 10 seconds of her sprint were what the edge of-the-seat movie climaxes are made of. In the last 80m of 400m final at the World U-20 Championships, when the others seemed to be thinking about finishing, Hima Das was just starting. It was perhaps that original 100m or 200m sprinter in her that took over and overtaking three rivals en route to a handsome lead, the 18-year-old clocked 51.46 seconds to win India’s first ever track gold in a global event.

She is happy to bring the laurel to the country, but there’s no resting till she has found her best. Her coach at the national camp, Basanth Singh, who spared no moment in handing her the Tri-colour for her celebration run at Ratina Stadium in Tampere, Finland, on Thursday, agrees.

“I am feeling very good but the goal is to achieve my best timing,” Hima tells ET Sports. “I would say this was just a trailer. Picture abhi baaki hai. She didn’t run to her capability. She took one second more than I expected,” Singh adds. An unsatisfied coach is surely a good sign for future, else sitting pretty contended on a lone achievement isn’t too unfamiliar in our sports.

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“I am hoping we get to see that in Asian Games. But our eyes are on the 2020 Olympics,” he adds.

Hima had clocked 51.13 seconds as her personal best at the inter-state championships in June. The Asian Games record was set by Bahrain’s Kemi Adekoya at 51.11 in 2014 Incheon. Marie-Jose Perec of France is the women’s Olympic record holder at 48.25 seconds, set at 1996 Games. The world record of Germany’s Marita Koch in 1985 – 47.60 seconds, has started looking all the more unbreakable since the turn of the millennium; America’s Sanya Richards’ 48.70 is the closest in 2006.

But for someone, all who knew was how to run fast or dribble a football around a muddy paddy field, her own fast enough is yet to come. “I’m not running after any medal. I don’t have a dream. My only aim is to clock a time that everyone remembers,” Hima says.

It was in the late 2016 that she got introduced to athletics. Spotted by Nipon Das, an athletics coach with the Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare, in an inter-district meet, she didn’t take much time to become the Dhing Express – after the village she hails from, in Assam. Her coaches, shunning romanticism of 100m or 200m, chose the path of practicality. “Her speed in 100m wasn’t matching the world level. So, if we could use the same speed in 400m and make her a world-level competitor, we thought it was the best way,” Singh tells us.

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And, Hima who best describes herself as “water” that adapts and changes course at will, would initially go firing on all cylinders and “run out of energy” in the first 200m. With time, came the understanding and ability to divide the race into frames. If initial moments are for deciding how she would run the race, the next phase if for saving her energy and the last is to shock and awe.

Her courage just helps her do that and make it look effortless. “I’ve always been bindaas. I like doing hansi-mazaak. I don’t know to take tension,” she says nonchalantly enough. For, her coaches that trait has been the asset they could have ever asked for. “There might be an Olympic champion in the next lane, but Hima doesn’t care. She is not scared of anything,” Singh adds. The sixth-place finish at this year’s Commonwealth Games, with the time of 51.32 seconds, 1.17 behind gold medal effort, hence, was taken an important lesson and not a disappointment. “I just know how to run and that is what I do,” says Hima. That is all the nation hopes.

Source: Economic Times