Hima Das the new poster girl of Indian athletics
What a week it has been for sport! Assams Hima Das created history becoming the first Indian to win a track gold at a world meet and shared headline space with tiny Croatia entering the World Cup final, Roger Federer getting knocked out of Wimbledon and the Indian cricket team starting their tour of Ireland-England on a high note.
It was not an unexpected gold for Hima, the first by Indian woman athlete at the World Under-20 Track and Field Championships, though Delhi discus thrower Neeraj Chopra is the first athlete to win gold at the championships in 2016, but in a field event at Bydgoszcz in Poland.
She went to Tampere, Finland, as afavourite, having clocked her best 51.13 seconds at the Inter-State Championships, her timing being better than that of her nearest competitor, Symone Mason of the US, whose personal best was 51.53 seconds.
The other two Indians to win medals at the World Juniors were women athletes, both discus throwers and bronze medallists -- Seema Punia at the Kingston World Junior Chamionships in 2002 and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon at the Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, US, in 2014.
Hima, the last of five children of a rice-growing farmer in Kandhulimari village, about five kilometers from Dhing town of Nowgaon district in central Assam, has a story to narrate like all poor children coming from rural India. What's more important about her is that she took to serious running two years ago when she also had the feel of running spikes.
She spent her childhood playing football and cricket with boys in the neighbourhood. Seeing her running on the paddy and dusty football fields, two years ago, she saw the athlete's spikes when she came under the wings of Nipon Das, the athletics coach with the Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare. In the last year or so she has had a roller-coaster ride, but she has been on the move, each race taking her to newer heights.
Once she got serious about track running, she journeyed by a passenger train daily from her native village to Guwahati to train using the facilities in the state capital. Nipon prevailed upon her to shift to the state capital and once she made the move, was no looking back.
Come to think of it, she started with 100 and 200 metres and has taken to running 400 metres less than a year ago. It's remarkable of her to have gone on to win a world gold.
She need not worry about her future as an athlete as the Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is a former Union Sports Minister.
Hima is sure to go places if she takes the advice of that great quarter-miler Milkha Singh, who wants someone to push her hard. P.T. Usha is another who can do her bit in seeing Hima on the right track.
India's cricket captain Virat Kohli is one of the many to hail Hima's gold-winning run. His own team is on a song on its tour of Ireland-England.