I am sure the moment you open your Instagram or Twitter or Facebook feed these days, you might find it flooded with pictures of a 19-year-old athlete: Hima Das. And there is reason enough for this to happen. She grabbed five gold medals in just 20 days. (Beat that Flash!) 200 m gold in Poznan (23.65 seconds), Kunto (23.97 seconds), Kladno (23.43 seconds), Tabor (23.25 seconds) and 400m gold in Prague (52.09 seconds).
An amazing feat at such an early age. She is called “The Dhing Express” and rightly so. Accolades have been pouring from in and around every corner of the social media. But before you gloat and show your “Chappan inch ka Seena”, there is something you should take note of. The medals that Das has won are of either competition which has been graded an ‘E’ or an ‘F’ by the International Association of Athletics Federation.
The Grading Of Competition
These are the lowest possible rankings that can be given to events by the IAAF. This by no means disregards the fact that these events lack credibility. But these are not at par with the world events of athletics. Her timing of 23.25 seconds was world’s 128th best. These facts are in no way demeaning the athlete.
It simply shows our ability to consume whatever is presented to us without really checking the credibility of it. This does not mean that Das should not be lauded for the work that she has done. However, we should accept the fact that there is room for improvement and a lot still needs to be done.
The Status of Sports In The Country
Athletics, fencing, boxing, wrestling (basically any sport that is not cricket!) is not valued in our country. People’s inclination to watch and support these sports has largely remained stagnant over a couple of years. We have had sportspersons like Abhinav Bindra, Dutee Chand etc. who have brought laurels to our nation. However, their contribution to furthering sports have been overshadowed by cricketers. A Mahendra Singh Dhoni or a Virat Kohli can be household names but people seldom know of a Mohammed Anas Yahiya.
Which brings me to the fact that our athletes are so under-represented that people oft lose interest in these sports. And of course, the remarkable work that is done by our sports federations cannot be put into words! (Smell the sarcasm?). While we may want gold in the Tokyo Olympics by the likes of athletes such as Hima Das, are we giving them the attention they deserve?
We gloat with pride when we see our athletes succeed but what we choose to ignore the hard lives that they live. Das sure competed against people who were way less qualified than her vis-a-vis their athletic skills. But that does not undermine gruesome hours of training she must have gone through.
However, there is still a long way to go. And many a milestones to achieve. Das can still improve her ranking. And with the Tokyo Olympics advancing, the time is right for her to prove herself in the face of world-class athletes.