Hima das made history by becoming India’s first ever track and field gold medalist at the IAAF world championship. She made the whole nation proud by winning the 400m event IAAF World U-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland. The 18-year-old managed to beat Romania’s Andrea Milkos (silver) and America’s Taylor Manson (bronze) and clocked in 51.46 seconds at the watch.
The daughter of a rice farmer Hima Das comes from a family of 17 people from a small village of Dhing in Assam’s Nagaon district. Hima Das or now known as The Dhing express has always been a socially conscious teenager who participated in a crusade to close liquor shops and ensures education for girl children in her village. According to her family, one of her school teachers made her choose athletics over her first love which is football.
Her talent was spotted by a teacher, Shams Ul Haq, at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Morigaon, Assam, in 2011-12 when she visited the Central government-run school for a sporting event.
Although, according to many Assam is not known to produce runners. But, according to her coach’s Hima was willing to go the extra mile and create history for India. In the U-20 world championship, Hima stood strong against naturally born sprinters from Jamaica and gave them a cut-throat competition proving her detractors wrong by winning the gold for India.
In just a matter of year after shifting her interest from football to athletics, Hima was the district champion. However, it took her two years to reach the state level competitions. Surprisingly, in the year 2016, she won the 100 m race at the state championship and made to the Junior Athletics Championship in Coimbatore without any training, stunning all.
Again in January 2017, Hima surprised everyone when the Directorate of Sports organised a camp for budding sportsmen, she then ran for the very first time on a synthetic track and managed to complete the race in a very short time, leaving behind all her competitors. This camp for budding sportsmen opened the doors of opportunity for Hima Das.
Nipon Das saw the champion there and asked her to shift to the capital, Guwahati for training opportunities. The coach played a big role in her success as due to the lack of funds provided, Nipon Das paid for all the arrangments for Hia to stay in the capital and train till the state government provided her with the accommodation. “She did not have even proper spikes then, but she always said she would not disappoint us,” Nipun recalled.
Hima used to participate in short races of 100m to 200m. But, the shift to 400m came when the coaches observed that Das is naturally a sprinter for 400m owing to her style. Das starts at a slow pace and peaks at the end, making her a perfect athlete for the 400m sprint. It was in may 2017 when her coaches Malakar and Das made her run 400 metres in Guwahati and to everyone’s surprise, Hima clocked an astonishing time of 57 seconds. And the rest is history.
Although Hima’s success was not overnight, she faced many failures as well. While all of us are busy congratulating her for her latest endeavour, not many know that she has proved her talent in the past and has been working hard to improve her timing. She competed in two events, at the Commonwealth Games 2018 – in the 400 metres and 4×400 metres.
In the 400 meters, Hima qualified but did not win the finals as she finished sixth as opposed to the gold medalist Amantle Montsho timing of 51.32 seconds. In the other event, Hima, who was part of the Indian team reached the final, finishing the race in 3 minutes and 33.61 seconds.
With each game, Hima was preparing for the big day and all efforts finally did pay off.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too congratulated her. “India is delighted and proud of athlete Hima Das, who won a historic Gold in the 400m of World U20 Championships… This accomplishment will certainly inspire young athletes in the coming years,” he posted on Twitter.
Coming back to her early days, in Kandulmari Village in Nagaon, 140 Kilometres from Guwahati, where she grew up in a joint family. “She would run, play football, even Kabaddi. She also loved to work in the farm and drive around in the tractor,” Parvati Bharali her aunt said, also adding that football was her favourite sport back in her school days.
Many of her cousins described Hima as the “stubborn girl” for ignoring the advice of people to not to play football with boys of the village. Her cousin, Joy das introduced us to the rebellious side of Hima and said, “She even participated when our village women started demolishing local liquor shops. She was a vocal votary for girl education.”
From playing football to running a 100m race to winning a gold in Finland. Hima das’ journey is inspiring, it shows despite lack of opportunities, facilities and resources she was able to succeed with sheer determination and hard work.
Bollywood Celebrities also praised the hard work of the girl and congratulated her on the success.