Hima Das - A symbol of Pride and Hope for the complete nation

Hima das - The Golden Girl of Indian Dreams | The Feat and the History :: It’s a matter of great pride and happiness for Indians as one of our daughters has created history by giving India its first gold in individual track events. Even greats of PT Usha and Milkha Singh who are glorified in the country could not get a gold in their athletic careers. “While you all were sleeping, I rocked the world,” said sensational 18-year-old athlete Hima Das. She was speaking to her father on the phone after running like the wind to claim gold in the 400m race at the IAAF World U-20 meet in Finland.

The 18-year-old, entered the Tampere meet as the odds on favourite in the 400m and proved her class, turning on the turbo chargers in the last 100m to decimate a quality field to win the gold. It was not her personal best time but 51.46s will be remembered in the annals of Indian athletics history. The girl from Assam became the first athlete from India to win gold on track in a World Championship.

Going into the home stretch, it appeared as if American Taylor Manson, who ended with the bronze, and Australian Ella Connolly could trouble the Indian but Hima, running in lane 4, had reserved her best for the last as she sprinted to victory.

Background

Hima Das was born in Nagaon in the state of Assam on 9 January 2000. Her parents are Ronjit and Jonali Das, she is the elder of four children. Das started off by playing football with boys in her school days, on the mud pits near her village school. She was considering a career in football and was hoping to play for India.

Later, it was suggested to her that she should participate in athletics. Das met Nipon Das (an athletics coach with a Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare) during an inter-district meet and he soon began coaching her. Her coach asked her to shift to Guwahati, 140 km from her village, to make a career in athletics. Das' parents were initially reluctant but were eventually convinced by him. “He was happy if we could feed her three times a day,” Nipon had told ESPN back in March. A local doctor, Pratul Sharma, was another do-gooder, who raised money for her lodging, the same report said. Her coach arranged for Das to stay in a rented accommodation near the Sarusajai Sports Complex. He inducted her into the state academy, which specialised in boxing and football. A separate wing was started later for athletics.

It was in 2016 that she caught the eye of the national selectors. She won two medals in sprints at the School Nationals and then at the U-18 Youth Nationals she won a silver and bronze in 200m and 100m. From Hyderabad, she qualified for the Asian Youth meet in Bangkok and then raced at the World Youth meet in Kenya last year.

Hima started her athletics career as a 100m and 200m sprinter before shifting to 400m following the advice of senior coaches. Hima won the Federation Cup in her first competitive 400m race and finished sixth at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

Hima called up Nabajit Malakar, her second coach, from Finland after the win and began to cry, saying: “What have I done?” Malakar, who works with Assam govt’s Directorate of Sports & Youth Welfare, was also moved by his ward’s achievements. “Those were tears of happiness. She was shocked at what she had accomplished,” Malakar told TOI on Friday.

Coach Nipon believes Hima can win a gold at the Asian Games and even break the 50-second mark. “It’s because of proper time, proper facility and proper support that she has achieved all this and will continue to do so in future,” is his belief.

For 52-year-old father Ranjit, Hima has always been a source of motivation. “She is as determined as a rock. Even when I was scared of sending her to train outside our village, she would tell me not to worry. I was motivated seeing her courage,” Das said.

A Role Model

Hima isn’t just a world-class athlete who swept past the stiff competition with ridiculous ease. She is also a socially conscious teenager who took the lead in demolishing country liquor vends in her village Dhing and its neighbourhood. “The girl has the guts to do anything and everything. She is never scared to speak out against illegal things. She is a role model for us and for the country,” a neighbour told TOI. The athlete is fondly called “Dhing Express” by people in her village.

From driving a tractor around her dad's paddy fields in Assam's Nagaon district to ruling the track at the World U-20 Athletics Championships in Tampere Finland, millennium girl Hima das has now become a trail blazer in Indian athletics. She is a true motivation for all Indians.