Dutee Chand, India’s national women’s 100m record holder, cut a lonely figure as she overcame despair to become the country’s first sprinter in 36 years to run in the Olympics, at Rio in August.
The diminutive Odisha sprinter has now found solace in her training base Hyderabad, with none other than the country’s most popular sportswoman, badminton star, PV Sindhu, training along with her.
Dutee Chand is delighted with the atmosphere in Hyderabad. “It’s like a home away from home. There are lots of friends to gossip with,” she told HT.
The atmosphere was anything but lively for the sprinter over the last two years.
In 2014, Dutee was found to have hyperandrogenism, a condition where women athletes have more than permissible level of the male hormone, testosterone.
In June that year, she was suspended from all competitions sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Dutee, however, challenged the IAAF policy in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, and won a landmark judgement, making a comeback in 2015.
However, Dutee Chand was left to feel lonely in her backyard too, after a ‘social boycott’ by other athletes during her training stint at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala in the build-up to the Rio Games.
“As I had no friends, I felt so lonely. During training sessions top athletes were reluctant to train with me. Off the field too, I was all alone. I had no one with whom I could share my thoughts,” Dutee said.
Dutee Chand’s coach N Ramesh said his ward did not give up easily despite her rivals in the camp claiming she had a big advantage over other female athletes due to her condition.
“Since she was always ahead of others, it generated track rivalry,” added a national level coach.
As she fought to be reinstated, Dutee missed the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Incheon Asian Games.
Besides PV Sindhu, Dutee also has the company of other young athletes at Hyderabad’s Gachibowli athletics stadium. “There is always someone to talk to. I don’t feel something is missing,” she said.
In April, in the build up to the Olympics, Dutee clocked 11.33 secs for the 100m, erasing Rachita Mistry’s 16-year-old national record of 11.38 secs.
In June, she lowered the mark again to 11.24 secs to attain the Olympics qualification mark of 11.32 secs. It was the first time an Indian woman ran in an Olympic sprint event since track queen PT Usha took part in the Moscow Olympics in 1980.
The government permitted the national camp in Hyderabad because Dutee’s coach is also from the region.
Dutee Chand’s next target is the Asian Track and Field meet in June, followed by the world athletics championships in August.
“I should be able to improve my national record. My main goal is to clock 11 secs flat,” she added.