18-year-old Hima Das became the first Indian woman to win a gold at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships. To celebrate her winning streak, the Athletics Federation of India tweeted out her triumphant record but also referred to Hima Das’ “not so fluent English”. This sparked the ire among fans and supporters and the governing body was forced to issue an apology.
What was supposed to be a congratulatory tweet turned out to be a faux pax. AFI posted a video on their official Twitter account, concentrating less on the achievement and more on Hima's limited English speaking ability.
#HimaDas speking to media after her SF win at #iaaftampere2018 @iaaforg Not so fluent in English but she gave her best there too. So proud of u #HimaDas Keep rocking & yeah,try ur best in final! @ioaindia @IndianOlympians @TejaswinShankar @PTI_News @StarSportsIndia @hotstartweets pic.twitter.com/N3PdEamJen— Athletics Federation of India (@afiindia) July 12, 2018
“#HimaDas speking to media after her SF win at #iaaftampere2018 @iaaforg Not so fluent in English but she gave her best there too. So proud of u #HimaDas Keep rocking & yeah,try ur best in final!” the AFI wrote on its twitter handle.
Hima scripted history at the IAAF World U-20 Athletics Championships in Tampere, Finland, when she bagged the top spot in the women’s 400m final. She earned India’s first-ever gold, clocking 51.46 seconds.
Shocked by the AFI tweet, fans expressed their displeasure for the insensitivity.
“She has landed in Tampere for displaying her talent in track and not in English. Shame on you for what you said,” read one tweet.
“She has not been featured by the IAAF for her English speaking skills, we have lot of good English speakers in India but very few who can run like her,” said another.
After the severe backlash prompted outrage online, the AFI issued a clarification. “We apologise to the country if our tweet hurt sentiments. We merely wanted to show that Hima is fearless whether on the track or outside. Despite being from a small village, she spoke freely with the foreign media. We apologise again to those who were offended,” the AFI posted in Hindi.
सभी भारतवासियों से क्षमा अगर हमारी एक TWEET से आप आहत हुए है!असल उद्देश्य यह दर्शाना था कि हमारी धाविका किसी भी कठनाई से नहीं घबराती, मैदान के अंदर या बाहर! छोटे से गाँव से आने के बावजूद, विदेश में अंग्रेजी पत्रकार से बेझिझक बात की! एक बार फिर उनसे क्षमा जो नाराज हैं, जय हिन्द!— Athletics Federation of India (@afiindia) July 13, 2018
"(We ask) Forgiveness from all the Indians, you have been hurt by one of our TWEET! The real purpose was to show that our runner is not afraid of any difficulty, inside or out of the ground! Regardless of the small village coming from, the speaker exclaimed abroad! Once again sorry for those who are angry, Jai Hind," the AFI wrote on Twitter.
"The Video is before final, video is great, so we will not DELETE it! see all! Once again sorry for those who are angry, thank you all for giving good luck to Hima! Jai Hind," the AFI tweeted.
Featured Image credit: IAAF / Twitter