Rio Olympics 2016: Dutee Chand's Olympic qualification is the most inspiring comeback story this year
Sprinter Dutee Chand qualified for the Rio Olympics in the 100m race.
Don't we all love an inspiring comeback story? I know I do.
Someone beating the odds and experiencing massive success in life is hugely inspiring. And this Olympics, we have a story that tells us nothing is impossible in life if you have the right amount of perseverance and commitment.
No discipline in life makes you as dedicated and competitive as sports. On top of that, the Olympic Games is the highest platform for any athletic activity in the world. The Games represent the human spirit in its full glory; they are all about winning and overcoming adversities in times of utmost despair.
20-year-old Dutee Chand did exactly that.
Four years ago, Chand, a teenager from Odisha, rose to prominence after clocking 11.80 seconds in the 100m sprint – thus becoming India's under-18 champion. The next year, at the age of 17, she won a bronze in the 200m at the Asian Championships.
In the 2013 National Championship, this daughter of a weaver bettered her timings and finished the 100m and 200m races in 11.73 seconds and 23.73 respectively. That same year she became the first Indian to reach the final of 100 metre final in the World Youth Championships.
It seemed as if nothing could go wrong for Dutee.
But suddenly, out of nowhere, her career came to a halt. That episode is still considered as one of the most dramatic and controversial moments in Indian athletics history.
A few days before her first major international tournament – the 2014 Commonwealth Games – the ace sprinter was found to have 'hyperandrogenism'. Her natural levels of testosterone exceeded the maximum permissible limit for female athletes. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) deemed her ineligible to compete after discussing with the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).
She was asked by AFI to either quit racing or undergo medical treatment. But the champion refused to accept that her career had hurtled towards a premature end.
And why not? Why would she change her body for participating in a sport?
While the Indian media and former players spoke about how a comeback was unlikely, especially because of the fact that several other players were starting to show their mettle at the international level, Chand left no stone unturned in her bid to return to the sport.
She filed a complaint at the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that facilitates the settlement of sports-related disputes. The reason for her stubbornness is very simple – athletes are taught to not give up till the end, to fight till the last moment.
Six months into 2015, she was served justice.
The CAS allowed her to compete at the international level while the IAAF was asked to submit concrete evidence about the necessity of their hyperandrogenism tests in the next two years. Subsequently, the regulation was revoked and Dutee allowed to race again.
There are few things that are more exciting in sports than comebacks. And Dutee did not let go of this comeback opportunity.
At first, she clocked 11.33 seconds and broke the 16-year-old national record of 11.38 seconds in the 2016 Federation Cup. However, she failed the Olympic qualification norm by one-hundredth of a second.
That did not affect her much as the sprinter clocked 11.30 seconds at the XXVI International Meeting G.Kosanov Memorial in Almaty, Kazakhstan. She beat the Rio Olympics qualification mark of 11.32 seconds in the process. The 20-year-old went on to better her timings and clocked 11.24 seconds in the finals to win a silver medal in the Kazakhstan meet.
Inspiration can be derived from many places – courage, hope and what not. But ‘victory is possible’ is the most common phrase that inspires people.
This is one story which celebrates victory.
When Roger Federer wins a Grand Slam, his comeback inspires many eulogies. But when a 'girl-turned-into-boy' or vice versa, according to AFI, comes back from nowhere to qualify for the biggest stage of them all, it is probably the mother of all comebacks.
Dutee Chand is and will remain a great inspiration to those who want to overcome all odds. With 41 days left for the Games to start, she renews our faith that indeed anything is possible.
Her next stop? Rio!