Having lost a chance to represent India at the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games, Dutee Chand is really happy to be on the flight to Birmingham for the 29th edition of the Games, which will be her first. Chand has made big leaps in her nine-year-old career and winning a gold medal at the 2019 Summer Universiade in Napoli is the latest one.
The track and field athlete who hails from a small village in Odisha scripted history with her twin medals at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. Her silver in the women's 100m was India’s first medal at the continental showpiece event since Rachita Mistry’s bronze in Beijing in 1998. Only the legendary PT Usha had won a 100m Asian Games silver medal way before Chand but that came way back in 1986.
There were hardships for Dutee as well. Starting from the humble upbringing to the hyperandrogenism controversy before the 2014 Glasgow Games and then the repercussions of coming out as homosexual in a conservative society, the 26-year-old faced it all but did not stutter even an inch. Chand kept on walking the ladder of success and here she is as one of the top medal contenders at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
SportsTiger got a chance to interact with Dutee Chand where she talked about her preparations and how excited she is to appear at the Games. The 26-year-old is not too worried about the result and just wants to give her best performance in the 4x100m relay race. She is also confident about breaking the 43-dead mark with her teammates Hima Das, Srabani Nanda, NS Simi, Dhanalakshmi Sekar, and MV Jilna.
Q. You missed chances to represent India at the 2014 and 2018 Games. Now that you are finally going to represent the country, how do you feel?
I am feeling honored. Commonwealth Games is a big event as athletes from around the globe participate in it. Jamaican and Australian athletes who have their personal best timings of 10.7, 10.8, or 10.9 are also there while Indian athletes have timings between 11.4-11.5 (seconds). So, it’s a tough fight. But, in a relay, overall timing is what matters. We are targeting to finish at 43-dead as this will increase our chances of winning a medal whether it comes from the first, second, or third position.
Our preparations are also going really good. We are working on the baton exchange at the moment. The team also looks solid with Hima, Srabani Nanda, Simi and me. All of us are giving our best in preparations and are hoping to win a medal for the country.
Q. You are only participating in one discipline i.e. 4x100m relay. But you have avoided the 100m race. Any specific reason for that?
Actually, I had three important events lined up for this year- Asian Games, World Universiade Games, and the Commonwealth Games. And as I had bagged a silver at the 2018 Asian Games, my coach had suggested trying for gold this time. But the Asian Games got postponed and meanwhile, the qualification for CWG started early. So, I missed a chance to qualify. Nonetheless, it seems there is an outside chance for me as Dhanalakshmi has failed her dope test.
Q. As it stands, you have one event to compete in as there is still no confirmation on your 100m chances. So, does that increase the pressure as less event means fewer chances of a medal?
No no. Although there is only one event, we have to run multiple times. There is Heat, Semifinals, then the main race. In athletics, there is no guarantee. If we fail in the Heats round, we won’t be able to make it to the semifinals. The same happens in the semis and the Final. So, we have to run all-out every time. Also, the weather conditions and the physical wellness of the athlete matter on that particular day. It’s not that you run in four events and get four medals. One can win a medal even after competing in only one event.
So, my main focus will be on the relay race as there is a chance for a medal there. It’s not easy to win a medal in the 100m race as you have to compete with athletes from Jamaica who have better personal best timings. So, I am currently focussing on the relay race. If I get a chance to run in the 100m race, then we’ll see.
Q. Have the legs been decided for everyone?
No, not yet. We are focusing on baton exchange at the moment. Everyone is running in every leg in practice races. I have run on all four legs. The coach is making everyone run in all four. Sometimes I run the first leg, sometimes Hima does it. Srabani Nanda is also doing it. So, it’s rotational at the moment. It will be decided once we reach England.
Q. England is facing a steep rise in temperature. Heatwaves are also being witnessed. So, does that make a difference?
We can’t do anything about the heat. The temperature is high everywhere these days. But none can match the level of heat in India (chuckles). The temperature is consistently crossing the 45 Degrees celsius mark in India. Our body is accustomed to the heat. Plus, our event will be held during the night time when the temperature will be around 30-35℃. So, I don’t think the heat is going to make a difference.
Q. Are you feeling good about your body? Is it all ready to do the trick on the track?
Yes yes. I am feeling really good. Also, we will reach London 5-6 days before our event. Our event is scheduled for 6 and 7 August and we are leaving on 26 July. This gives us 7-8 days for training and getting accustomed to the conditions in the UK.
Q. Our Prime Minister interacted with the CWG-bound athletes a few days ago. So, how does that feel and what difference does it make when someone of his stature motivates the people representing the country?
Our PM always supports sportspeople. He has also brought-in many schemes to aid us. The Fit India Movement is there, Khelo India is also helping young athletes. The Olympic Podium scheme is also there to help top athletes in the country. Opening SAI institutes across the country is also helping young sportspeople.
He interacts and motivates every time an athlete goes to a major event like the Olympics, CWG, or World Championships. We felt really good after interacting with him. I remember every word he said. He said ‘Just focus on your performance. It doesn’t matter whether you win a medal or not, just give your best’. Hearing these words really felt good. We try to win medals but sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. So, him saying those words felt extremely good.
Not only before an event, but he also invites athletes and sportspeople when they return. He sits with us for breakfast or lunch which makes us feel that we are doing something good for the country.
Q. How did you like his “Kyun pade ho chakkar me, Koi nhi hai takkar me”?
(Smiles) It was a good one actually. It always plays on the minds of athletes that top sportspeople will also be there to compete. So, what he said really makes sense as we should be focusing on ourselves, not the opponents.
Q. Are you following Neeraj Chopra? The way he has risen to ranks, what do you make of him?
Actually, Neeraj is a good friend of mine. He was my batchmate. We went together to the Junior World Championships in Turkey. He has been a good athlete right from the start. He created a world record with the best throw in U-20. He then improved at the Olympics and then the World Championships. His performances have been really good. I hope he wins a medal at the Commonwealth Games too.
Q. The Women’s cricket team is also making their maiden appearance. So, you want to wish them luck or anything?
They had been fighting a long battle but it was not happening. Nevertheless, the Women’s team is finally going and I am confident they will perform well. Every player on the team looks good. So, I hope they win a medal as well.
Q. Any message for the fans in the country?
I just request them to keep following sports and keep supporting sportspeople. Keep the love coming and pray for us that we do well for the country.