New Delhi: Born in a poor family in the Nagaon district of Assam, sprinter Hima Das’ has enjoyed a meteoric rise. On Thursday evening, she created history in Tampere, Finland by winning the gold medal — the second by an Indian athlete — in the women’s 400 metre event at the IAAF World U20 Championships.
Hima registered 51.46 seconds in the final at the Ratina Stadium to become the first Indian sprinter to win gold in a track event in a world championship across all age groups.
She had a slow start and was trailing at least three other runners going into the final stretch.
But the 18-year-old produced a powerful sprint in the last 100 metres to win by a comfortable margin.
Delhi youngster Neeraj Chopra was the first Indian to win gold at the World U20 Championships when he won the men’s javelin event in 2016.
The other Indian medallists at the World Junior Championships were Seema Punia who took bronze in women’s discus in 2002 and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (women’s discus bronze in 2014).
Hima had done well in the earlier rounds as well, winning Heat 4 with a time of 52.25 seconds. She emerged on top in the semi-finals as well, winning her race in 52.10 seconds.
Hima has improved considerably from the Commonwealth Games earlier this year where she finished sixth in the women’s 400m with a time of 51.32 seconds, 1.17 seconds behind gold medallist Amantle Montshofrom Botswana.
She was also a part of the women’s 4x400m relay team which finished seventh with a time of three minutes and 33.61 seconds.
Hima ‘s achievement is all the more remarkable since she started using spikes only a couple of years ago.
The youngest of six siblings, Hima’s talent was first spotted during an inter-district meet in 2016.
Due to the absence of a running track, she had to train on a muddy football field.
Despite the lack of facilities and training equipment, she took bronze in the state meet and reached the 100m final at the junior nationals later that year.
She eventually qualified for the women’s 200m event at the Asian Youth Championships in Bangkok, where she finished seventh.
But Hima’s time of 24.52 seconds saw her qualify for the the World Youth Championships in Nairobi where she eventually took the fifth spot with a time of 24.31 seconds.
The Assam girl built on that success with a gold at the Asian Games test event in Jakarta with a personal best of 23.59 seconds.
She soon turned her focus to the 400m as well.
With the success at World U20 Championships making her a favourite for the gold at next month’s Asian Games, both Hima and her millions of fans back home will be hoping for more than one medal at the continental extravaganza.