18-year-old Hima Das proved her mettle by becoming the first Indian woman to win a gold at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships, in Tampere, Finland. Interestingly, Hima started off with football. She was playing with boys in the mud pits near the rice fields where her father used to work when a local coach saw her potential. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Here are some things to know about the exceptional sprinter:

  • During the track events on Thursday, the sprinter earned India’s first-ever gold, clocking 51.46 seconds in the 400 metre women’s final.

A day before the historic event, on June 10, she made it to 400m semi-finals as the fastest runner in heats at World U-20 Athletics

Salute to the unstoppable:

  • The first Indian woman finalist at CWG, 2018, was a pre-tournament favourite as she led the U-20 season in this quartermile event. A gold was definitely expected from her.

Look at her go:

Andrea Miklos of Romania came second with a timing of 52.07 seconds to settle for a silver while USA’s Taylor Manson fetched bronze, clocking 52.28 seconds. Eminent personalities like Virender Sehwag and Amitabh Bachchan have congratulated Hima Das. What a proud moment for the nation!

  • She is the first Indian track event athlete to ever win a medal in the history of the competition.

  • Hima now joins the league of stars like Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who won a gold in Poland in the last edition in 2016 in a world record.
  • Seema Punia, a bronze medallist in discus throw in 2002, made it to the list of winners at the World Junior Championships and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon claimed bronze in discus throw in 2014.

READ: #KheloIndia Will Hone Young India’s Sporting Talent

  • The Assam girl, Hima, showed a brilliant performance at the 21st Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in April this year when she qualified for the final of the women’s 400m event, registering a personal best of 51.53 seconds timing. Thus she became the first Indian woman to qualify for an athletics track CWG final. Unfortunately, she finished sixth in the final.

  • Hima hails from a small village at Dhing in Nagaon of Assam. She is the youngest child in the family and her father is a small rice farmer.
  • She came into the limelight when she made it to the final of the 100m race in the Junior National Championships in Coimbatore.

  • She broke the Indian U-20 record in 400m to 51.13 seconds while winning gold in the recently-concluded National Inter State Championships in Guwahati.

Thanking her supporters and fans in Finland, an ecstatic Hima said, “I am very happy to win the gold in the World Junior championships. I want to thank all the Indians back home and also those, who were here cheering me. It was very encouraging to have this kind of support,” India Today reported.

A racer is born:

  • Hima is trained by coach Nipon Das, who spotted her in January last year. The athletics coach works with the Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare. He said her confidence was the key to her success. “She does not get overawed by anybody and does not care about her opponents. In every race, her goal is to beat the best with better timing,” Nipon told The Hindu.

  • The sensational racer took to athletics just 18 months ago. She ran her first competitive race in an inter-district meet in Sivasagar, Assam. “She was wearing cheap spikes but she won gold in the 100 and 200. She ran like the wind. I hadn’t seen such a talent in ages,” Nipon said, Indian Express reported.

Nipon Das’ contribution

  • Seeing the potential in her, the coach approached Hima and she moved to Guwahati, 140 km from her village. Her parents, Ronjit Das and Jomali, were not convinced initially because she is the youngest of six children. But Nipon brought them on board.
  • He also convinced officials to induct her into the state academy, which specialised in boxing and football. “There was no separate wing for athletics but the officials were open to Hima being part of the academy after seeing her performances. Assam is not known to produce runners,” Nipon said. Her coach has been a constant guiding force.
  • “I keep telling Hima only one thing: Dream big. Because only a few are blessed with God-given talent. My aim was to try and make sure she is part of the relay team for the Asian Games. But she has surpassed all expectations by winning a world championship gold in the individual event.”

The Twitterati too heaped praise on Hima. ‘95% of Indian men (including me) can’t match that speed. A brilliant message for all those who think/ say that women are physically weaker sex,” wrote one Twitter user.

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 win. 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 moral 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 torch bearers 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.”

Kudos to you, Hima!

Featured Image credit: IAAF / Twitter

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