JUST 18 months after running her first competitive race — an inter-district meet in Sivasagar, Assam — 18-year-old Hima Das has created athletics history. The daughter of a rice farmer from Dhing village in Nagaon district, she got India its first ever track gold at a global event by winning the 400 metre final at the World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland.
Tense on the starting block, Hima started slow and trailed on the home stretch, but her blazing run in the final 80m, where she overtook three rivals, saw her clocking 51.46 seconds.
In Guwahati, her coach Nipon Das says he wasn’t worried when Hima wasn’t among the top three at the final curve. “Her race begins in the final 80 metres. Her progress just shows how much potential she has. It has been just two years since she first wore spikes,” says the coach about her ward whose personal best is 51.13 seconds.
With this win, Hima joined an elite club of Indian athletes who have won medals at the World U20 Championships. But she is the only runner in a hall of fame that has throwers like Seema Punia (bronze, discus), Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (bronze, discus) and Neeraj Chopra (gold, javelin).
Those who have followed Hima’s meteoric rise had anticipated a podium finish at Finland. After clocking the fastest time in the heats and semifinal, the sprinter had the spotlight on her in a field dominated by runners from the powerho...