Know Your Olympian: Dutee Chand, From Rags to Cases to Riches
As IAAF plans to reopen sprinter Dutee Chand’s ‘gender case’, here’s a look at her journey to Rio.
Dutee Chand, Indian sprinter and current national 100m champion, became the third woman ever to represent India in the event at the Rio Olympics in August.
At the G Kosanov Memorial Meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Chand clocked a national record of 11.30 seconds to make the cut. The qualifying mark was set at 11.32.
She finished seventh in her heat with a timing of 11.69 seconds, and failed to qualify for the next round at Rio.
As the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has announced its decision to reopen Indian sprinter Dutee Chand’s ‘gender case’, here’s a look at her journey to Rio.
She was born on 3 February 1996 to a poor weaver couple Chakradhar Chand and Akhuji Chand Dutee in Gopalpur, Odisha. They supported the family with a salary of Rs 3,000 per month. One among 7 siblings, the young athlete’s main inspiration to take up running was her elder sister Saraswati Chand. who had also aspired to be an athlete so that she could contribute to the family income. Saraswati ran for the state and went on to get a job with the Odisha Police in 2005.
Chand and her parents fought social humiliation to go from struggling for bare survival, to her qualifying for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
The Bumpy Road to Rio
In 2012, at the age of 16, Dutee Chand became a national champion in the under-18 category when she clocked 11.8 seconds in the 100 metres event.
In 2013, she became the first Indian to reach the 100 metres final at the World Youth Championships.
To add to her growing laurels, Chand then was crowned the national champion in 100 metres and 200 metres when she won the events clocking 11.73 seconds in the final in 100 metres and a career-best 23.73 seconds in 200 metres at the 2013 National Senior Athletics Championships in Ranchi.
Chand was dropped from India’s contingent for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in Incheon after her naturally-occurring testosterone levels were found in breach of the IAAF’s guidelines.
The decision was made in compliance with International Olympic Committee (IOC) regulations on “female hyperandrogenism” designed to address a perceived advantage for female athletes with high androgen levels.
While she was advised to have surgery and get medication, the sprinter decided to challenge the guidelines at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). CAS subsequently asked the IAAF to present scientific evidence that proved enhanced testosterone levels improved performance in hyperandrogenic athletes, within two years. During this tough time, Dutee stayed in a two bedroom house with her family.
After almost a year of uncertainty and confusion, in July 2015, a 19-year-old Dutee was cleared by CAS to participate in domestic and international events. The Athletic Federation of India and IAAF’s actions received great criticism as an affront to Dutee’s privacy and human rights.
Taunts Turn to Praise
Chand made a groundbreaking comeback when she reigned supreme at the 55th National Open Athletic Championship in September 2015.
At the 2016 Asian Indoor Athletics Championships in Doha, Chand set a new national record in 60 metre, clocking 7.28 seconds. She clocked 11.33 seconds in women’s 100m dash to win the gold in the 2016 Federation Cup National Athletics Championships in New Delhi and erase Rachita Mistry’s 16-year-old national record of 11.38 seconds. However, she missed the Rio Olympics qualification norm of 11.32 by one-hundredth of a second.
Finally on 25th June 2016, Chand broke the very same National record twice in one day at the XVI International G Kosanov Memorial in Almaty, Kazakhstan, thereby qualifying for the Olympic Games.
Coach Nagpuri Ramesh and Pullela Gopi Chand, who provided Chand with a venue to train, have played a major role in her success. Chand, who’s currently being supported by the Anglian Medal Hunt Company, will be training in Florida ahead of Rio.
Dutee Chand was felicitated by Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan in Bengaluru this July for her Olympic qualification.
Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra Group, has promised Chand a XUV500 regardless of her performance after he read about the athlete’s intention of “buying the car sometime in the future”.
(This article was first published on 14 July 2016. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives in view of the legal case against Dutee Chand being reopened.)
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