Four gold medals in 15 days. Fifth gold in 18 days. The last couple of weeks have been a roller coaster ride for Hima Das, the 19-year-old sprinter from Assam. The star athlete, Hima knew how important each second was as she topped the podium spot in her latest win with a time of 52.09 seconds. On a golden roll in July, she has been winning back to back golden medals and hearts. Not content with the medals, she stretched herself to not just win the gold, but to consistently better her timing. Yet Hima fell short of her personal best of 50.79 seconds, which she had achieved during Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta. Nonetheless, endorsement fees for her have doubled in three weeks.
Popularly known as The “Dhing Express”, Hima’s fifth gold of the month came on July 20 in Czech Republic where she clocked a season-best time of 52.09 seconds at the Nove Mesto nad Metuji Grand Prix. This month also marks her first competitive 200m race of the year on July 2, where she clocked 23.65 seconds to win gold at the Poznan Athletics Grand Prix in Poland. After that on July 8, she won her second 200m gold at the Kutno Athletics Meet in Poland clocking 23.97 seconds, and on July 13, the third international gold came in 200m at the Kladno Athletics Meet in Czech Republic, with a time of 23.43 seconds. She bettered all these timings, when on July 17, she won her fourth gold in 200m at the Tabor Athletics Meet, clocking 23.25 seconds.
Hima fell short of her personal best of 50.79 seconds, which she had achieved during Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta. Nonetheless, endorsement fees for her have doubled in three weeks.
Hima, who hails from a small village of Dhing in Nagaon of Assam, is the youngest child in the family and her father is a small rice farmer. Having spent most of her childhood coping with an overwhelming financial crisis, today she commands about Rs 30-35 lakh a year per brand to about Rs 60 lakh annually. This year, she made it to the ‘Forbes India 30 Under 30’ list. She has also been appointed as the country’s first youth ambassador to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) India, recently. The list goes on!
Hima’s recent successes on the global stage have worked splendidly for her, both in terms of confidence and visibility. Now she is eyeing to qualify for the World Championships in both the quarter-mile event and the 200m. Previously, Hima stood fourth in her first race of the year on March 8 at the 3rd Indian Grand Prix.
Hima definitely is the strongest competitor in the zone, targeting the Olympic Games, if she could push herself a little bit more on the big points.
The year didn’t begin well for her. She had failed to complete her 400m heat in the Asian Athletics Championship in April due to a back spasm. But the winning streak had already begun with the win in Tampere last year. This July, she has a lot more confidence on the sleeve now after winning gold medals in a row.
Hima Das, who holds the current Indian national record in 400 metres, is also dominating the tracks of the 200m, mastering a shortened distance in a short span of time. The greatest so far for athletics in India since the country has had few track and field stars of global stature. But before the Olympic qualifications event starts on July 24, 2020, we chalked down a quickathon on her limits, strengths, specialties and traits on the tracks.
Her personal best is clocking 23.10 seconds to win a 200m race. She is ultra-aggressive when it comes to running longer events, but injuries slow her down.
Calculating Hima’s speed here, overall, she is yet to achieve the best Olympic timing which is set by Elaine Thompson, the gold medal winner at the 200m event in the 2016 Olympics who clocked 21.78 seconds. If Hima is eyeing to win gold in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, she then has to beat that time at the very least. Can she achieve it? In just a year’s span, the difference of 1.32 seconds between the best of Elaine and sensational Hima might seem achievable, given the records she has made over a couple of weeks. With practice and more precision in the races ahead, she could definitely speed up and improve upon her timings.
Since the Olympics are the epitome of international sporting talent, and in comparison to these international meets, way more brutal and competitive, there’s a clear pattern to the athlete’s form that should be kept in mind. Hima needs to come out all guns blazing from the very start of the qualification game and try to set the tone. She specializes in the 400m, and is now moving towards the 200m. You do the math. Her accuracy in longer distance will not be applicable here. She should surely claw back as there is no option for unforced errors or a tentative approach at the tracks. If she can add an Olympic medal to her tally, especially a gold, it would be historic since she is just 19. Although too many expectations can cause disappointment, her peaking records track forces us to believe that this might just be her time to make headlines on the world stage. Clearly, she needs to reinvent herself in order to return to winning 200m ways on a bigger international stage like the Olympics.
Among other major accolades, last year Hima scripted history, by becoming the first Indian woman to win a gold at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships.
Hima is a unique outperformer, given that the sensational racer took to athletics just two years ago.
SheThePeople.TV reached out to Adille Sumariwalla, ex-Olympian and Athletics Federation of India president, to know how the sports scenario will change after Hima’s wins. Does it mean that a sports-crazy nation like India will finally have an icon, who has come from a financially challenged background and won gold in world-class tracks, to look up to? Sumariwalla says, “One needs a spark to light a fire and Hima is the true spark.”
When asked whether Hima’s victory will be a morale boost for aspirant girls who dream of running but fear societal pressure, he said, “Women like Hima, and many others before her have been the torchbearers and inspiration to youngsters and I don’t think that there are societal pressures in that sense. Every kid in India, and especially in Assam, will want to emulate Hima.”
You’re incredible Hima Das. Keep sprinting!