What's the story?
The Dhing Express, as Hima Das is popularly known, is an Indian sprinter, who till now, specialized in the 400m category. The 20-year-old holds the Indian national record in 400 meters which she set during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta with a timing of 50.79 seconds.
The Assam-born athlete was thrust into the limelight in 2018 when she won a Silver medal at the 2018 Asiad. She also bagged two golds in Jakarta in the Women's 4×400m and Mixed 4×400m events.
Earlier in the same year, Das had bagged a Gold at the prestigious World U-20 Championships, becoming the first-ever Indian sprinter to clinch a Gold at an international track event.
In July 2019, Das won a 200m Gold at the Poznan Athletics Grand Prix in Poland. A week later she went on to bag the yellow metal again, this time at the Kladno Athletics Meet in the Czech Republic. Last year ended on a heartbreaking note for Das when she was ruled out of the World Athletics Championships in October 2019 due to a back injury.
The heart of the matter
The Arjuna Awardee has participated in 200m events earlier as well but 400m has always been her forte. What is concerning is that her best timing in the 200m event is 23.10 seconds (that she clocked in mid-2018).
However, the Olympic qualification mark for 200m is 22.80. Das would have to improve on her personal best by at least another 0.30 seconds in order to participate in the Women's 200m at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
As per Indian Express, the decision to shift to the 200m event was made to ease pressure on Das to qualify for the 400m event, which is her favorite. After a highly successful 2018, the Indian sprinter suffered a torrid 2019 as she was unable to participate in the Doha World Championships due to injury despite qualifying for the prestigious event.
Speaking on the reason for the shift to Indian Express, the high-performance director of the Athletics Federation of India, Volker Herrmann said:
"It does not make sense to focus on the 400 metres this season because she does not have the basic conditioning level she needs. And in the 400 metres you need a decent amount of endurance and considering that now there is only four and a half months till the end of the qualifying period for the Olympics, we didn’t want to make similar mistakes of last season and we didn’t want to force anything. If we put her into 400 metre competitions again there would be a lot of pressure. She is still young and and we don’t want to rush anything."
AFI's Chief Coach Bahadur Singh, 400-meter coach Galina Bukharina, deputy chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair, and Volker Herrmann took this decision to shift Hima Das to 200m collectively.
The shift will only be for the current season and the star athlete would be able to move back to her 400m next year if all goes well. The shorter distance would also help Hima to improve upon her speed.
Volker Herrmann added, "Hima’s main limitation now is her speed for a 400-metre runner, so this year as far as individual events go, Hima will focus more on the 200 metres. The goal is to improve her personal best, and from 2021 onwards with better speed base and hopefully with more endurance as well, she can focus on improving her 400-metre performance."
Hima's sole aim now will be to secure an Olympic berth and get a chance to compete with other world-class athletes in Tokyo.