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From darkness to spotlight: The incredible story of Gold-medalist Hima Das!

by Unik Dhandhi, Monday, July 23, 2018

A wise man once said, 'God helps those who help themselves' which is precisely apt. And the living example of the above statement is Indian athlete Hima Das. A name, 'Hima Das' which was once never heard of or spoken about; has created history which we may never create.

Hailing from Assam, Hima Das has become the only Indian to win gold-medal at a global event, IAAF World U20 Athletics Championship 2018. Just a week earlier, Hima broke all the records by covering 400m track in mere 51.46 seconds. Hailing from a small village in Assam, Hima has won millions of hearts worldwide by displaying some fine sportsmanship.

In just a day, her house and town got stormed with reporters and politicians who could not stop praising Hima. At present, there is more than necessary spotlight on this village girl who once lived in the shadow of poverty. Hima opened her eyes in a joint family of 17 including Hima’s parents, siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins.

Hima's father Ranjit Das who is a farmer was also unaware of her daughter's unmatchable talent but he often heard about it from the neighbors. Following the Indian orthodoxy, it was unconventional for a girl to pursue a career in the field of sports and hence, Hima had to hide her talent from her father and relatives.

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Her talent must've been hidden from her loved ones but it did not stop her from leaping towards success. And for her, 'success' was pure sportsmanship. Hima Das loved playing as a kid, her father Ranjit said: “She would get upset when she wouldn’t be allowed to play, and I would encourage her to continue, but her mother would be worried that it might affect her studies".

Hima's pillar of strength, mother Jounali said: “She enjoyed helping her father and shared his share of work, not so much the kitchen work. She loved the work that usually the men of the family would take up. She couldn’t sit still for more than 15 minutes at her desk while studying. She just wanted to be out in the fields, playing.”

The IAAF World U20 Athletics Championship was not the first event where Hima proved her mettle. Studying in Dhing Public High School, Hima never actually participated in any major tournament but she did enjoyed playing regional football matches. A friend of Hima, Nabajyoti recalled “This one time, we had organised a woman’s friendly football match between Amsoi, a nearby village, and Karbi Anglong. Amsoi was trailing behind by a goal and this got Hima restless. She told the Amsoi coach she wanted to play and he let her. As a striker, she scored immediately for Amsoi and drew the match.”

Besides her friends and family, Hima's mentors were also very impressed with her dedication and discipline. When Hima was 13-years-old, she took part at a local sports meet organised by the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya where she met physical trainer, Shamshul Haque. Shamshul said: “There were more than a hundred students who took part in the games but Hima was different. She would always be on time and showed immense dedication, and won many prizes in most of the games."

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“I thought something needs to be done here. I knew Gowri Shankar Roy at the Nagaon Sports Association and requested him to somehow take her in,Shamshul added.

Haque explained that Ranjit and Jounila played a key role in Hima's success by saying, “There are notions that people in rural areas are not open minded like city dwellers but look at Hima’s family (they’ve always allowed her) and look where she’s now."

From 2014 to 2016, Hima trained at the Nagaon Sports Association, where Gowri Shankar Roy was in charge of the athletics wing. Unfortunately, Hima’s family couldn’t always afford to pay for her travel and that is where Roy would step in to help. Roy said: “We had first sent her to Visakhapatnam to play at the National Inter-district Athletics Championship, where she didn’t win any medals.”

He added: “She was then selected for the Inter-district U16 Athletics Meet in Goalpara, Assam, for 100 and 200 m, where again she was unable to win any medals. But in 2015, we sent her for the same event at Dhekiajuli, where she placed third in both the 100m and 200m runs."

And in 2016, Hima proved that she is not ordinary by winning gold at both 100 and 200m at the Inter-district Sports Meet. Since then Hima has been training extremely hard for beating world records which she finally did at the IAAF World U20 Athletics Championship 2018 in Finland.

Well, it won't be wrong to say that there were numerous helping-hands during Hima's journey which kept on helping her from time-to-time. But neither is the fact that Hima's dedication and hard-work played a bigger role in her success, is wrong. Stay tuned for more sports related updates

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