The Dutee Chand story: How she turned the tables and made a return to the top flight
The humble early beginnings
A few people are lucky enough to be born in families that can afford the luxury of adequate training facilities for their children. Dutee Chand, however, wasn't in that category.
Born to Chakradhar and Akhuji Chand, a poor weaver couple in the Jajpur district of Orissa, Dutee has a sister and three brothers, who all had to undergo plenty of hardships as children.
But Dutee didn't have to look too far away for inspiration to take up sports as a career. Her sister Saraswati Chand was a champion athlete herself, having won six medals at the World Police and Fire Games in 2009.
First steps into athletics
Dutee was spotted in 2009 by the Sports Authority of India coach Mr. N Ramesh. After noticing that this young girl possessed a special talent, he enrolled her into the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Patiala.
For any athlete to succeed, along with the right coaching, their own personal hard work is equally important, if not more. And by virtue of a combination of both, Dutee became the 100m national champion in the Under-18 category in 2012 at the age of 16. She clocked a time of 11.8 seconds in the final.
Dutee had well and truly arrived on the Indian athletics scene.
Global success follows – and plenty of it
But Dutee wasn't content with success only at the national level. That same year, she clinched the bronze medal in the 200m at the Asian Athletics Championships, clocking a time of 23.811 seconds.
2013 was a significant year for her as she became the first Indian athlete to qualify for the final of the World Youth Championships, which were held in Donetsk, Ukraine that year. She tasted further national success that year when she won the 100m title again, recording a time of 11.73 seconds.
She also pocketed the 200m title in the event with a time of 23.73 seconds, which is still her career-best time in that particular category.
Dutee’s career seemed like it was on the upswing, and the sky seemed the limit for her potential. But just when everything looked nice and rosy, a major jolt came her way as she was omitted from the Indian contingent for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The omission was ostensibly on the ground that she had hyperandrogenism, which made her ineligible to participate as a female athlete. Hyperandrogenism is a medical condition in which a person has higher testosterone levels than normal, and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) supposedly had evidence to prove that the testosterone levels in Dutee's body didn't qualify her to be a woman.
Speaking about that phase to Sportskeeda, Mr. Ramesh said:
"It was a very difficult time for her. She went back to her village in Ganjam and her friends started doubting her. Roommates refused to share their rooms with her. To add to that her economic condition was really poor, so she was really confused and distraught.
"But she made the right move and kept training. She had faith that she would be allowed to race, and now she's back. I have no doubt in my mind that she will make the Olympics very soon."
Dutee, of course, didn't take the decision lightly. The controversy had brought her very existence into question, and self-doubt and humiliation she had to face were almost too depressing to imagine.
But Dutee wouldn't cow down in the face of injustice. She dragged the AFI and the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), demanding that her plea be heard.
And her efforts paid off! In 2015, the CAS decided to temporarily allow Dutee to participate in global events, while also suspending the hyperandrogenism regulation for female track and field athletes for two years.
The CAS has given the IAAF a period of two years to provide sufficient proof that corroborates the correlation between gender and testosterone levels. Failure of the IAAF to do so would mean revoking of the hyperandrogenism clause altogether.
The second wind
Immediately after the decision was announced Dutee came back stronger than ever, winning the 100m and the 200m title at the National Open Athletics Championships in Kolkata in September.
With 9 months left to go for the 2016 Rio Olympics, Dutee’s preparations are in full swing, and she hopes to be standing among the Indian hopefuls when the national flag is unfurled at the Games. To get there, however, it is important for her to get the best training facilities possible, which unfortunately are beyond her budget at the moment.
Dutee wants to train at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Centre in the USA for a period of four months leading up to the Rio Games. That would entail a total cost of US$49,940 or Rs. 32 lakh, which is way beyond the financial resources at her disposal.
Sportskeeda in association with Anglian Medal Hunt and Nurturing Excellence in Sports Trust are looking to help Dutee achieve her dreams. The link below allows you to make any donation within your means towards this cause.
All the donations will be used for Dutee Chand's training in the USA. Hopefully, she will be able to use that valuable training time to achieve Olympic glory for India in Rio!