There was undeniable excitement in the air ahead of the Khelo India University Games’ women’s 200m final. Athletes, coaches, mediapersons and tournament officials gathered around the Sree Kanteerava Stadium track to watch two of India’s best — Priya Mohan and Dutee Chand — go face to face. Priya, from host Jain University, had claimed the women’s 400m gold the previous night, albeit in less than ideal conditions. Heavy showers had made the track slippery, resulting in Priya recording a below-average timing of 54.43s. This was well below her personal best (52.37s), and an upset Priya was nearly in tears after the race.
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Dutee also entered with a win under her belt, having taken the women’s 100m gold earlier. The Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology athlete won in 11.68s, once again nowhere close to her personal best.
Priya and Dutee both had a point to prove in the 200m clash. The duo was neck and neck in the first 100 metres, before Priya pulled away to record a comfortable victory. The 19-year-old Priya had outclassed the seasoned two-time Olympian in style.
To defeat a celebrated star would count as a major milestone for most, but Priya was calm and composed when she interacted with the media shortly after the win. The teenager was not keen on basking in glory, preferring rather to focus on her timing (23.9s).
“There was no pressure competing against her (Dutee). But yes, my body had not fully recovered, as I had just four hours of sleep last night after the 400m final. I could have done well here with better recovery. My strategy was to catch her in the first 80m or so, as I have a stronger finish. That worked well. This win will help my confidence, but I expected a timing of 23.5s,” Priya said.
The Bengaluru athlete, coached by Arjun Ajay, has been making waves recently. She finished fourth in the women’s 400m at the 2021 World athletics under-20 championship in Nairobi, and won bronze in the mixed 4x400m relay event in the same championship. Before the Tokyo Olympics, Priya defeated M. R. Poovamma in the women’s 400m to win gold at the Inter-state national athletics meet in Patiala. She only narrowly missed out on a 4x400m mixed relay team berth for the Olympics.
Priya will now travel to Europe to compete in World Athletics Continental Tour events. The future looks bright for the dedicated youngster. Dutee was gracious in defeat, stating that it was only natural for younger athletes like Priya to come through the ranks.
“There is a time for everyone. In my generation, I was doing well and remained at the top. That generation is slowly going, and their (young) generation is coming up. There are a number of policies now, which helps Indian athletes grow. There is international exposure also. I believe that the next generation of athletes can win medals in international events,” said Dutee.
Dutee added that she is focussed more on 100m now, and that she competes in 200m without much training.
“I’ve left 200m behind for the last two years, and I’ve been focussing on 100m more. I’m getting older, and it is tough for me to focus on two events. Since this is my last Khelo India University Games, I decided to participate in both 100m and 200m, and see what happens. To get a silver in 200m without much preparation is a decent effort,” Dutee said.
There is plenty of fight left in Dutee. She stated that she is keen on doing well in the big international events coming up. “First up is the World University Games. I will then focus on the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the World Championship. On the domestic front, the Inter-State championship is coming up soon,” Dutee said.