Sprinter Dutee Chand’s outstanding 100 metre win in 11.33 seconds at last month’s Federation Cup, missing the Rio Olympic Games qualification mark by 1/100th of a second, has changed the perception of the officials in the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
Dutee also broke the 16-year-old national record in the meet and was soon sanctioned financial assistance under the government’s Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS).
However, the Odisha sprinter said the financial support has come too late. “It’s insignificant at the moment because it will not help me train abroad to polish my skills.”
Dutee’s career came to a halt two years ago after she was barred from competing due to hyperandrogenism (high levels of testosterone in the body). She successfully appealed against the sanction in the Court of Arbitration for Sports, arguing that the condition didn’t give her any advantage over her rivals.
Dutee returned to the track last year, but a proposal to train in the US was shot down by the SAI. She has trained in Hyderabad since. On the sidelines of a promotional event at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Dutee said she was confident of achieving the Rio mark this month. “I’ll be competing in three-four international events, starting with Beijing (IAAF World Challenge on May 18) and Taiwan (May 19-20). Racing against better athletes will give me a chance to qualify.”
Dutee’s coach, N Ramesh, also exuded confidence. “She has the capability. Racing with athletes who run 11.2 or 11.1 will help her achieve that.”
Dutee will also run in the 4x100m relay. Although she feels it will be difficult to focus on two races, she said the country comes first. The national relay squad will leave for Beijing on May 16. The qualification deadline for the relay teams is July 11.
It’s intriguing what prompted the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to suddenly shortlist the 4x100m relay teams for Rio after ignoring them for the last two years. AFI secretary-general CV Valson says the performance at the Federation Cup was encouraging. “The team has a chance, why not try?” he remarked.
However, the ground realities are stark. Both the sprint relay teams are ranked below 24 in the world. For qualification, the average of two fastest times from international competitions will be considered. Only the top 16 nations will get to compete in Brazil.
At the New Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010, the men’s relay squad set a national record of 38.89 seconds. The sprinters have not impressed since. At last year’s Asian Athletics meet in Wuhan, India came sixth, in 39.63 secs.
To achieve Rio qualification, the relay squad should achieve an average of 38.72 secs or less. In women, India should average around 43.00 secs. The SAI has sanctioned funds for international meets to achieve the qualification marks in men and women.