Dutee Chand: Delighted to qualify, confident of performing well in Tokyo

Sprinter Dutee Chand says she is more confident of performing well than she was in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. In an interview, she looks ahead to her mighty challenge in Tokyo.

Gearing up for the big test: Dutee Chand with her mentor-cum-coach N. Ramesh. - V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

At 25, Dutee Chand has every reason to feel proud to be the first Indian athlete to make it to the Olympics for the second time in a row in the 100m. Dutee will also compete in the 200m event for the first time in the Olympics.

“Yes, I am delighted even though honestly I was a bit worried whether I would eventually make it because there were not too many competitions for me to protect the world rankings,” Dutee said in a chat with Sportstar.

“Definitely, it will be great if I can realise my ultimate dream of an Olympic medal which is not that easy as many might expect from me,” she said with a big smile.

“But to make it to the Olympics for the second straight time is itself a dream come true for me,” she added.

Fairy tale

For the ‘pocket dynamo’ at 4-ft, 11 inch, it has been a fairy tale success story given the kind of adversities she has had to face both. She weathered the hyperandrogenism controversy in 2014 to be back on track with vengeance and since then never really looked back, with the tried and trusted coach N. Ramesh of Sports Authority of India mentoring her.

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“I owe everything to him. He was with me when I was written off by everyone. He took me to Hyderabad where Gopi sir (P. Gopichand) also supported me. They gave me a second life in athletics,” the two-time Asian Games silver medallist said in acknowledgement of Ramesh’s efforts.

How different will Tokyo be than the Rio Olympics? “Experience-wise I should say [better]. In Rio, I was very nervous in my first Olympics, clearly overwhelmed by the big names around. Now, I am more confident and know the art of running better,” the four-time Asian championship bronze medallist said.

“I don’t think there is any need to be different in my training methods. What I need to produce for expected results is pretty well taken care of by Ramesh sir,” Dutee said.

‘Not easy’

“The Tokyo Games are going to be different for sure because of the pandemic restrictions. But again, I am not going there for any picnic. Will stay focussed for sure,” she said.

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What are the prospects? “You need a little bit of luck, good weather to start with, and my first objective is to make it to the semifinals and I know it is not going to be that easy.

“The efforts are on to improve my stamina and doing a lot of exercises for that backed by a nutritious diet.

Dutee Chand (far right) during the 100m heat in Rio de Janeiro, in August, 2016. Tokyo will mark her second Olympic appearance.

 

“I am grateful to the Odisha State Government, the Government of India and the Athletics Federation of India for being with me during testing times,” the sprinter said.

‘More mature’

For his part, coach Ramesh said that they had a tough time during training sessions as Dutee had niggles, and the timings were not on target because of the pandemic. “We had to reorganise everything with emphasis on sprints even though she had to focus on relays too,” he said.

“I think Dutee is more mature now as compared to Rio. She understands better now how to run the race and stay away from the normal distractions before the Games,” said Ramesh, who will be making his fourth Olympics appearance as a coach.

“Yes, the first objective is to qualify for the semifinals and I believe those who have self-belief and are mentally tough have very good chances of doing well in this Olympics. You need not be a superstar for surprises are bound to be there and I believe Dutee is capable of pulling of one for India,” he concluded.

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