GUWAHATI, April 12 - If everything goes well, Hima Das, the latest sensation in Indian athletics, might well be hitting the Tokyo athletic tracks in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The girl from a remote village called Kandulimari off Dhing in Nagaon district lit up the Gold Coast athletic tracks in the ongoing Commonwealth Games in the last couple of days. From the first heats to the final in women�s 400 metres, the sturdy teenager improved day by day, finally finishing sixth with her individual best timing of 51.32 seconds.
Although this timing is nowhere near the world record (47.60 sec) or the Olympic record (48.25 sec), for Hima and her fans it is more than satisfactory as she took up the 400 metre event only a few months back.
She had started her sprint career as a 200 metre runner and won several national level medals in the discipline. Hima also finished fifth in the World Junior Athletic Championships in Nairobi. But, after returning from Nairobi, following suggestions from her coaches and mentors, she decided to shift to 400 metres.
�We knew that it would be tough for her to succeed in the 200 metres. But in the 400 metres she can do well not only at the Asian level but also in the global arena. So, after a discussion we had with the national coach Radhakrishna Nayar, she started practising in the 400 metres at the Sarusajai Stadium here,� said Nipon Das, who has been her mentor since 2017.
Immediately after shifting to 400 metres, she clinched gold in the discipline in the East Zone Athletic Meet held in March 2017. In the senior category, too, she clinched gold in the Federation Cup at Patiala in March this year, earning instant fame. That stellar performance won her a ticket to the Commonwealth Games.
Before she entered the arena of sports, Hima was an ordinary but ambitious girl. Her fortune took a giant leap in January 2017 when she was called to attend a camp organised by the Directorate of Sports at Sarusajai. From that camp she was selected for the Assam school team.
She came into the limelight after the National Youth Athletic Championship held at Hyderabad in November 2017, from where she was selected for the World Youth Championship. Mentor Nipon Das, coach Nabajit Malakar, State athletic body secretary Pradip Nunisa and officials of the Directorate of Sports, Assam, among others, provided her technical, financial and moral support, helping her reach this stage.
Now, a question may arise as to whether she has what it takes to become a world beater in her sport. Of course, the way she has been performing of late, there is no reason why she cannot become one. At the same time, however, her performance at the Commonwealth Games should not be regarded as a yardstick to measure her true potential, as the ongoing event does not have the likes of Rio Olympic gold medallist Shaunae Miller and silver medallist Allyson Felix. Yet, Hima�s level of confidence speaks volumes about her future.
Firstly, she built up tremendous confidence during the past one year and secondly, developed as an athlete under the watchful eyes of US coach Jelena at Patiala. Her best quality is that she knows the technique of making the final strides to the finishing line, as was observed in the Gold Coast.
If the government provides adequate support to her, and the coaches too hone her skills further, it is certain that she would be able to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The qualifying timing for her event is 52.20 seconds and the timing of the eighth position holder in the Rio Olympics was 51.25 seconds.
Hima is still young. If the 18-year-old can gain some height, and the government too makes it easy for her to train abroad, she will definitely be able to shine in the world of sports. This correspondent had the opportunity to watch India�s Nirmala running 400 metres with a timing of 51.48 sec at the Rio Olympics. Hima�s body language seems to be far better than that of Nirmala.
As Hima is picked for the 4x400m relay also, it can be assumed that India can bag a medal in the event if all the four runners do well.
If nurtured properly, Hima can become another PT Usha, and may even achieve more than what the Paayoli Express did during her outstanding career.