On the right track

VIPIN CHANDRAN

Following a decent outing in 2013, Dutee Chand has emerged as the country’s top sprinter and has raised hopes of winning medals in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, writes J. R. Shridharan.

With an imported stretchable band around her hips, Dutee Chand, the gifted teenage athlete, is not only putting to test the elasticity of the object, but also her ability to generate speed to dominate the tracks.

Following a decent outing in 2013, this indefatigable girl from Gopalpur, a non-descript village in Odisha, has emerged as the country’s top sprinter and has raised hopes of winning medals in the forthcoming mega events — Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. Many critics are of the opinion that Dutee Chand, 18, the National 100m and 200m champion is the best thing to happen to Indian athletics after P. T. Usha, the sprint queen of the 1980s.

The diminutive Dutee Chand, with sheer hard work and determination, has made her country and coaches proud by qualifying for the final of the 100m in the IAAF world youth athletics championship in Donetsk (Ukraine). Though she finished sixth, she made it to the record books as the first Indian to qualify for a global 100m final. Dutee clocked a personal best of 11.62s.

This 5ft 4in ONGC-sponsored athlete won the bronze medal in the 200m (23.82s) in the Asian Athletic championship in Pune. She clocked her personal best of 23.74s in the 200m heats of the National Open athletics meet in Ranchi. Her best in 400m is her 55.55s effort in Chennai.

For her string of productive sprints and bagful of medals, she was honoured by the Odisha Olympic Association and Odisha Athletic Association recently with a cash award of Rs. 1, 25,000. Her coach Nagapuri Ramesh, a National sprints and hurdles coach, was awarded Rs. 25,000 for his contribution in shaping Dutee’s career.

“The year 2014 will be a challenging one for she will be aiming for medals in 100m and 200m, both in Glasgow (CWG) and Incheon (Asian Games),” says senior SAI coach Ramesh from Patiala.

Dutee is undergoing advanced drills that include mountain-climbing to strengthen her legs. “She needs to improve the lower portion of her body for an explosive start, which is essential in sprints. She is mastering specific speed training drills with the help of a stretchable rubber. These drills are designed for specific muscles involving each phase of the running process. These speed endurance drills will help athletes fine-tune their movement mechanics and running forms,” explains Ramesh.

Ramesh says Dutee will be concentrating on her pet event — the 200m. “Though she is good at 100m, she stands a better chance of winning a medal in 200m. She will also have enough time to recover. Though she has a blazing start, she has to go all out in the second 100m, for which she needs strong legs.”

Dutee’s coach says that her height might prove to be detrimental, especially in close finishes and hence the stress on speed. “Shorter legs are beneficial to build speed quickly. As she might be found wanting at photo-finishes, where athletes with height will make use of their torso effectively to cross the finish line, she needs to rely on speed.”

“I am shaping well for the two big events and I am hopeful of winning medals which will motivate me to achieve my ultimate goal — a podium finish in the Rio Olympics,” says Dutee, who idolises Usain Blot.