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Sprinter Hima Das
Sprinter Hima Das|Twitter
OPINION

Misson Tokyo 2020: Keeping fingers crossed for Hima Das

The ace sprinter from Assam has still got time to achieve entry standards for World Championships in Doha through Indian GP on September 1

Kalyan Deb

With Hima Das and Dutee Chand setting the tracks on fire in Europe with some excellent feats, social media seems to be abuzz with congratulatory messages, thus igniting hopes in a country which has never won a track and field medal at the Olympics or the World Championships so far.

However, will it be right to hope for a medal, when both are yet to qualify for the biggest showpiece events?

Well, with a year to go until the start of the Olympic Games, the good news is that a few Indian athletes have already been showing signs of being competitive at the highest level of competition.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) released the qualifying standards earlier this year for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and according to it, the qualification timing for 200m is 22.80 seconds. The 200m isn’t Hima’s pet event and it’s highly unlikely she would even attempt to qualify for it

If we take a close look at Hima’s performances, the ace sprinter claimed her fifth gold medal in three weeks at the Nove Mesto Athletics Meet on July 20. She clocked a timing of 52.09 seconds to complete the 400m race, registering her season-best timing. Hima had earlier won gold in 200m in Tabor Athletic Meet. Known as the “Dhing Express” she won three gold medals at different events -- Klado Athletic Meet, Kunto Athletics Meet, and Poznan Athletics Grand Prix.

Hima’s performance not only shocks her fans, but also raises alarm bells for the Athletic Federation of India
Hima’s performance not only shocks her fans, but also raises alarm bells for the Athletic Federation of India
File image

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) released the qualifying standards earlier this year for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and according to it, the qualification timing for 200m is 22.80 seconds. The 200m isn’t her pet event and it’s highly unlikely she would even attempt to qualify for it.

As far as the events in which Hima claimed gold medals, it’s no secret that elite athletes don’t take part in as many competitions in a month with the aim of solely winning medals. The IAAF World U20 gold medallist is yet to achieve the world championship qualification mark of 51.80s. Her season’s best of 52.09 is 75th in the world this year as Shaunae Miller-Uibot sits atop the chart clocking 49.05s.

Hima wasn’t actually facing a world-class field. In one of the races, at Kladno in the Czech Republic, she was up against three other runners. Among those whom she beat was Sierra Leone’s Hafsatu Kamara, a 27-year-old who has never won a major title and finished 26th in the 400m at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. There was also Brazil’s De Lis Tamaris, who has run a sub-24 200m just once in the last five years.

Despite all of this, let’s not take any credit away from her, a gold is always a gold. As we all know in sports, with success comes expectations, so for Hima, who has already been crowned the golden girl of India’s track and field, it would be best to stay focused. With applauds pouring in from all corners of the society, it is necessary that the fans to let her have her feet on the ground, and closer to her Olympics dream. She has certainly got all the ingredients to make it big at the global stage.

 Dutee Chand practising yoga
Dutee Chand practising yoga
Twitter

Hima has still got time to achieve entry standards for the World Championships in Doha (which gets underway on September 27) through the Indian GP on September 1.

Dutee too had become the first Indian track athlete to win gold in the World University Games by clocking 11.32 seconds in the 100m in Napoli recently. Dutee, who holds the 100m national record of 11.24 seconds, will have to be at her best if she has to qualify for the September 27-October 6 event. She ran her season’s best of 11.26 seconds during the Asian Championships in Doha in April and she will have to at least repeat it in less than next two months’ time.

Dutee, who holds the 100m national record of 11.24 seconds, will have to be at her best if she has to qualify for the September 27-October 6 event. She ran her season’s best of 11.26 seconds during the Asian Championships in Doha in April and she will have to at least repeat it in less than next two months’ time

Now, among those who have sealed their berth in the flight to Doha is a prime prospect – javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra. After some confusion, it emerged earlier this week that Neeraj has qualified for the upcoming World Championships in Doha. It was revealed that the 68th All India Inter-Services Athletics Championships in Jalahalli held in September last year, where Neeraj had thrown 83.90m, fulfilled all the criteria to be considered as a World Championships qualifier. He had a memorable 2018, blowing away the opposition at Commonwealth and Asian Games. Just days after setting a national record in Jakarta, Neeraj grabbed headlines once again in Zurich when he came within a whisker of bronze at Diamond League finals. The entire country was captivated by his exploits and he was talked about as one of India’s biggest medal hopes in Tokyo. That was when tragedy struck, an elbow injury followed by surgery in March.

Racewalker KT Irfan became the first Indian athlete to achieve the Tokyo entry benchmark with a timing of 1:20:57, finishing fourth in the Asian Racewalking Championships in Nomi, Japan. Joining him will be Asian marathon champion Gopi Thonakal who qualified after his 11th place finish in the Seoul International Marathon earlier this year. The 30-year-old clocked his personal best time of 2 hours, 13.39 minutes bettering the World Championships qualification mark of 2:16:00.

Dutee Chand in a gymnasium
Dutee Chand in a gymnasium
Twitter

Long-jumper M Sreeshankar has set a new national record at the National Open in Bhubaneswar with a leap of 8.20 metres and the 19-year-old will be joined by Devinder Singh and Ganapathi Krishnan (both 20km walk), Avinash Sable (3,000m steeplechase), Annu Rani (Javelin Throw).

Also making the cut is Haryana’s Anjali Devi in the women’s 400m with her stunning 51.79s (qualification time 51.80s), which came as she won the National Open gold.

Although it will be too early to expect something extraordinary at the Olympics, but certainly Indian athletes seem to be peaking at the right time.

India competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 5 to 21 August 2016. Indian athletes appeared in every edition of the Summer olympics since 1920, although they made their official debut at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Altogether 117 Indian athletes participated in Rio 2016, 63 men and 54 women, across 15 sports at the Games. It was the nation's largest ever delegation sent to the Olympics, due to the historic comeback of the women's field hockey squad after 36 years and the proliferation of track and field athletes making the cut.

India left Rio de Janeiro with only two medals, saving its pride from the humiliation of returning empty-handed for the first time since Barcelona 1992. These medals were awarded only to female athletes for the first time in history, a silver to badminton player PV Sandhu in the women’s singles, and a bronze to freestyle wrestler Sakshi Malik in the Women’s 58 kg.

Several Indian athletes came close to increasing the medal haul, including tennis tandem Mirza and Rohan Bopanna in the mixed doubles; Abhinav Bindra, who narrowly missed out the podium by a half-point in the men’s 10m air rifle before retiring from the sport; and Dipa Karmakar, who surprised the global audience with her high-risk Produnova routine in the women’s vault. For the first time, the Indian shooters failed to earn a single medal since 2004, and the boxers since 2008.