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Asian Games 2018: Hima Das, Muhammed Anas, Dutee Chand herald India’s track turnaround

Hima Das shattered the 400m national record for a second time in two days for a silver while Dutee Chand grabbed the second place in 100m dash on another good day for India’s track and field athletes in the Asian Games 2018.

asian games 2018 Updated: Aug 27, 2018 08:31 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times, Jakarta
Asian Games 2018,Hima Das,Muhammed Anas
Hima Das celebrates after securing silver medal in the women's 400m final at Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta.(PTI)

The three could not be more different. One is a junior world champion just getting a taste of life in the fast lane. The other is a Navy man on a national record-breaking spree since 2016. And the third, India’s fastest woman, has been at the forefront of a global battle against gender testing.

On Sunday in Jakarta, Hima Das, Muhammed Anas and Dutee Chand converged in a series of dramatic performances that first suggested, then insisted, and finally heralded India’s track turnaround on the Asian Games stage. India had been on the slide after Busan 2002, when Saraswati Saha (200m), KM Beenamol (800m) and Sunita Rani (1500m) had emerged as the golden girls of Indian athletics.

On Sunday, Das, 18, the only Indian to win at U-20 junior world championships in Helsinki last month, was the first to raise the bar when she clocked 50.79 seconds, finishing behind an inspired run by gold-medal winner Salwa Naser of Bahrain. Das broke the national record twice in two days — first in the heats (51 seconds), then in the final. “It is a silver but I am not disappointed. I’ve done my bit,” Das, still out of breath, said moments after the finish.

READ: Asian Games 2018: Dutee Chand puts behind troubled past to bag silver

It was then Anas’s turn to step under the spotlight. From Kollam in Kerala, the 23-year-old put away thoughts of the floods in the home state, covering the 400m in 45.69 seconds – nearly half a second off his personal best of 45.24, but still enough to add to India’s silver streak.

“I don’t know what happened to me in the final. I could’ve run better but I’m happy with silver,” said Anas.

And finally, the 22-year-old Chand, who fought against and successfully overturned a hyperandrogenism ban after qualifying for the Rio Olympics in 2016, showed her sprit was far from crushed by the public battle against arbitrary gender classification in sport.

Chand missed the gold by just 0.02 seconds in a photo finish, clocking 11.32. The last time an Indian won a 100m medal at the Asian Games was in 1998 when Rachita Mistry won bronze. The last time India won a silver in 100m was in 1986 when PT Usha finished second in Seoul (even the great Usha could not clinch an Asian gold). “People said many things about me. The same girl today came back and won a medal for the country. It is really big achievement for me,” said Dutee.

Yahiya Muhammed Anas holds the Indian tricolour after securing silver in men's 400m final athletics. (PTI)

The accolades were led by none other than Usha, who won three individual gold medals in Seoul 1996 for India’s best track performance by a single athlete.

“What an excellent show! It will inspire youngsters back home because it will help them believe that we also can do well in sprints. The 100m was a real close decision and we could have won gold. It was an excellent sprint by Dutee. She had a point to prove, and she did. It’s not easy for a girl to come back after everything she faced in the last two years,” Usha, 54, said.

“Both Anas and Das did well, but Dutee’s performance stood out.”

First Published: Aug 27, 2018 08:27 IST