Power Moment 2017: Dutee Chand | Verve Magazine
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June 30, 2017

Power Moment 2017: Dutee Chand

Text by Simone Louis

For sprinting past gender controversies and humble beginnings to break records and reign ​on the track ​as the fastest Indian woman….

Early last year, this remarkable athlete became the first Indian woman to qualify for the 100m event at the Olympics in 36 years, clocking a record time of 11.30 seconds during heats at the XXVI International Meeting G Kosanov Memorial in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Later that day, she bettered the national record at 11.24 seconds. What made the feat extra special is that it marked a comeback for the modest girl from Gopalpur, Odisha, who has won inconceivable battles to get to where she is. In 2014, right at her peak, Dutee Chand was banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Hyperandrogenism, they said, was the reason – excessive but naturally occurring testosterone. This was ten days before the Commonwealth Games.

Like others before her, Chand could have undergone hormone therapy or surgery to lower her androgen levels, but instead chose to challenge a conflict-ridden decree. In July 2015, after a landmark legal battle, she won the right to compete…and never looked back. And even though she didn’t qualify for the semi-finals at Rio, finishing seventh in the women’s 100m heat with a timing of 11.69 seconds, the 21-year-old went on to clinch three medals in the first three legs of the Asian Grand Prix recently, and is targeting the 100m qualifying mark (11.26s) for the world championships later this year.

On her Olympics qualification
‘This is not a joke, it is not a dream. This is what I worked very, very hard for, every day for the last 14 years. It is not a dream.’

On the sex-testing storm
‘I heard people say I was a boy, and not a girl. And that I could not compete anymore. The only two things I identified with – being a girl and being an international athlete – were being questioned.’

On her childhood
‘It was difficult to train. I didn’t have shoes, so was forced to run barefoot. I didn’t have the right clothes to train as well. In winters, I used to shiver while running but had to run anyway.’

On her Asian medals this year
‘It is always tough to come back to such a competitive circuit after a long, off-season when the demands are naturally very high both in terms of training and setting new standards. Winning these medals should spur me to come up with improved timings in the coming events which include the Grand Prix in Bengaluru, Federation Cup and the Asian Track and Field meet in July.’

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