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The teenager who conquered the world

By Norma Godinho
September 29, 2018 07:25 IST
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'After I won the final I gave my father a call.'
'He said the family had followed my progress on TV and saw that I had won.'
'"We are going to sleep now," he said.'
'I told him 'I am a world champion and you are going to sleep!'
Hima Das, 18, on how she made history.
Norma Godinho/ listens in.

IMAGE: Hima Das celebrates winning gold in the women's 400 metres at the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, July 12, 2018. Photograph: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for IAAF

Several sports stars have ascended into our consciousness after this year's Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. None more attention-grabbing than Hima Das.

The teenager from Assam shattered the Indian national record in the 400 metres at the Asian Games in Jakarta where she clocked 50.79 seconds to win the silver medal.

The star sprinter also won gold in the women's 4×400 metres and a silver in the mixed 4x400 metres at the Asiad.

But it was even before the Asian Games that the spunky 18 year old stormed the national imagination.

She became the first Indian to win the women's 400 metres at the Under-20 World Athletics Championships in Finland in June, clocking 51.46 seconds.

The historic triumph turned her into a national sensation overnight, but for Hima's parents in her native Assam it wasn't a big deal.


Hima Das celebrates winning the silver medal in the women's 400m at the Asian Games

IMAGE: Hima celebrates winning the silver medal in the women's 400 metres at the 2018 Asian Games. Photograph: PTI

"Before going to Finland for the World Youth Athletic Championships, I just told my father that I was going to participate in an event," Hima said in Mumbai on Friday, September 28.

"After I won the final I gave my father a call. He said the family had followed my progress on TV and saw that I had won. There was no excitement from him, all he said was 'We are going to sleep now'. I told him 'I am a world champion and you are going to sleep!' He said 'We'll see what happens in the morning.'

"When I called my father the next morning, I could hear a lot of commotion in the background. When my father was returning from the market, he saw a lot of media vans and he knew they were heading to my house, that is when he realised the magnitude of my achievement," adds the teenager who won an Arjuna Award this year.

Hima's rise has been steady over the last two years and her father's encouragement is now bearing fruit.


IMAGE: Hima receives the Arjuna Award from President Ram Nath Kovind. Photograph: Shahbaz Khan/PTI

"I live in a joint family with 17 members under one roof. My father is an MA but he didn't get a job because all his certificates got destroyed when our house caught fire. So my father took up farming -- fish farming and vegetable farming," Hima told reporters in Mumbai.

"My paternal uncle and aunt have jobs and they are the ones who feed the family with a regular income. I was naughty, but never demanding. I never asked my parents for shoes or tracksuits. I was happy with what I had."

"My father was a footballer and he has inspired me. I was a naughty child. I'd never listen to my elders. I was always playing in the neighbouhood or climbing trees and plucking fruit. I'd play cricket and football with my brothers," she added.

"When they didn't let me play with them, my father would convince them to include me. I got better in football with time. I played for local clubs and earned small amounts of money," the champion revealed with a smile.

IMAGE: Hima says her father has inspired her into being a sportsperson. Photograph: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for IAAF

Hima is aware things won't get easy in the future. "There will be challenges. It will be tough. I have to train hard."

Then this world beater revealed her mantra before every race: "When I go to the track there is only one thing I tell myself -- I have to finish the race."

"Female athletes should come out and perform and see how beautiful the road ahead is," she felt. "Their performances will help them grow."

"Only once they come out and perform will they win and be able to garner sponsors."

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