The Hush Post: First the newsy bit — Indian sprinter Hima Das has scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman to win a gold at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships in the women’s 400m final race. 18-year-old Das clocked 51.46s to win the gold. Now the current world record is 47.60 seconds by Martia Koch. But not necessarily have Olympic gold medallists got closer to it.
Das is the first Indian track athlete to have won a medal in the history of this competition. The previous medal winners at the World Junior Championships were Seema Punia (bronze in discus in 2002) and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (bronze in discus in 2014).
Now, to the interesting part of her life. “She has no worries about how hard that is. She simply believes in herself that she can. And then she does it, “one of her coaches has said about her.
Youngest of five siblings of Jomali and Ronjit Das, a marginal rice farmer in Assam, she would play football on muddy fields and was a striker for a local club team. In 2016, her Physical Education teacher suggested her to focus on some individual game as a career in football could be difficult.
She participated in the 100m race in the state championships in Guwahati, and finished with a bronze, next she graduated to gold in the Junior National Championships in Coimbatore. Now her coaches, Nabajit Malakar and Nipon Das, started getting serious.
With permission from her father, they rented out a room for her in Guwahati. From here on, she started getting medals one after the other in a span of just two years — school nationals, Youth (U-18) Nationals in Hyderabad, Asian Youth Championships in Bangkok ( from where she returned with her trademark streak of blonde dyed hair), World Youth Championships in Nairobi
Now, the coaches were clear in their minds about her strength — she leaps from one competition to another and improves each time. “This is something you don’t see in many athletes. She improves her performance with every race she runs,” says coach Malakar.
In the Federation Cup, her coaches asked her to train for the 400 m as sprint runners don’t find it easy to run the 400m. After 350m, once lactic acid builds up in your muscles, it is sheer pain, say experts. None of this seemed applicable for Hima.
Her coaches credit this to her mental toughness. “Her biggest strength is that she simply doesn’t worry about what’s happening in the other lanes. People ask her, ‘Aren’t you worried if the person next to you is a national champion?’ The fact is she doesn’t even know who the national champion or world champion is because she has just been competing at any level for a year,” Malakar had said in an interview with ESPN.
Hima underestimates herself. “Before the Federation Cup, I thought I would run 52.40 seconds. I wasn’t expecting to run under 52 seconds,” she had said in an interview.