Sprint sensation Hima Das returned to her home state Assam on Friday to a rousing reception, following her exploits at the Asian Games.
After scripting history by becoming the first Indian woman athlete to clinch a gold medal in the IAAF World U-20 Athletics Championships in Finland, earlier, this year, Hima followed it up by bagging a gold and a silver in the Asian Games in Jakarta.
The 18-year-old sprinter, fondly called ‘Dhing Express’ after her village, had gone to the Indonesian capital after training in Europe.
Hima was received at the LPGB airport, here, by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and many of his cabinet colleagues with a traditional Assamese ‘ gamosa ’ (scarf of honour) around her neck. Her farmer parents Ronjit and Jonali Das were also present at the airport.
Escorted out by 25 Assam Police special women commandos ‘ Birangona ’, the athlete walked on a specially laid out red carpet designed like a running track with number markings.
‘ Amar ghoror suwali ’' (the girl from our place), shouted students, sports lovers, political leaders, people from her village Dhing, who were waiting outside the terminal building.
To the beats of drum and Bihu dances, the sprinter, wearing a red tracksuit jacket with blue jeans, was taken in a white luxury car. The vehicle with Hima standing through its sun roof was part of the procession of cars.
Hima waved at people lining the road as the cavalcade was led by members of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) on motorcycles. Hima is the sports and culture secretary of the AASU unit in her home village Dhing.
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The cavalcade had to stop several times as the people and various socio-cultural organisations wanted to felicitate Hima, who clinched the top spot in the women’s 400m race in the World U-20 Athletics Championships in July.
At the Asian Games, she set a national record by clocking 51.00 to qualify for the 400 metre final and bettered it with 50.79 to clinch silver. She went on to win another silver in the mixed 4x400m relay and bagged a gold in the women’s 4x400m relay. On arriving at the Sarusajai Stadium, Hima kissed the track.
“I trained here and I always thought that it is from this track that I will go forward. I thank all for making me achieve what I have done so far. I will continue to go forward,” she said.
“People from Dhing have come all the way here. Because of their love for me, they walked the route from the airport, even under the scorching sun while I was inside the car,” the athlete said.
The Assam government was to felicitate Hima at the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra.
Hima opts out of IAAF Continental Cup
Hima has pulled out of the IAAF Continental Cup as the Athletics Federation of India wants her to give rest after a hectic season, which saw her become the junior world 400m champion. The prestigious tournament is to be held in the Czech Republic from Saturday.
Hima was, initially, among seven Indian athletes who were to take part in the season-ending IAAF event in Ostrava on September 8 and 9, but has, now, been replaced by Australia’s Anneliese Rubbie as the second runner from Asia-Pacific.
The Continental Cup is competed among four teams — Europe, Africa, America and Asia-Pacific — in 18 events each in both men and women’s sections and the mixed 4x400m relay. The top two athletes in the season’s rankings from each of the four regions take part in the Continental Cup.
“Yes, Hima is not running in the IAAF Continental Cup. The AFI has decided to give her rest. She has run so many races this year from the Commonwealth Games to the World Juniors and the Asian Games. It is not good to make her run so many races,” a top coach said on Friday.
The coach, however, ruled out any injury to Hima, though reports had said that she sustained minor side strains during the mixed 4x400m relay race during the Asian Games due to ‘obstruction’ by a Bahraini runner. She was also seen limping after running the 4x400m relay race in Jakarta.
“There is no injury to Hima. Athletes need good recovery time after a hectic season. She is very young, she has just started her career and we have to preserve and manage her workload lest she is burnt out,” the coach said.
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