Sprint princess Hima Das is back home with tons of laurels for the State and the country. If the language of Julius Caesar is to be imbibed, one can certainly say, ‘She went, she saw, she conquered’. Still more significant is the fact that Hima ‘conquered’ all the medals on foreign soil (one Gold medal in Finland and one Gold and two Silver in Jakarta).
The stupendous performance of the 19-year-old girl from Dhing in the IAAF U-20 Championship in Finland proved to the hilt the kind of staff that she is made of and the nerves of steel that she possesses.
Now that Hima has already set her mark in the international athletic arena while posing a challenge to many across the globe, it is time that sports authorities, both at the State and at the national level woke up to the reality ahead and initiated measures for her proper grooming to set the tracks ablaze in the Olympics and other international events.
During the press meet after her return from Jakarta, she made it amply clear that she is a new comer in the arena and that she has a lot to learn. With all humility and simplicity she said, “I am still a learner. I don’t have much idea on running 400m yet.”
This humble submission by the ‘Dhing Express’ clearly shows that she sprang up from the rustic countryside purely on her own sans the required facilities and infrastructure as is the wont of world class athletes. For sure, all credit goes to Hima Das in the building of her athletic career till she hogged the limelight at the national level. At least till then it was a single handed effort.
Normally, in countries that grab booties of medals at international meets, children from the tender age of 10-12 years are given the opportunity to join sporting camps at the local level where the inborn talent of every child is screened. While such talent search camps are virtually a round-the-year affair, by the time the child reaches 14-15 years, his/her real sporting potential is detected and actual grooming and coaching of the child in the appropriate discipline begins in the right earnest. The approach adopted is that towards the late teens he/she blazes across the global arena to the awe of the sporting fraternity across the globe.
However, in the case of the sprint princess from Dhing, such facilities could not even be dreamt of. Going by the sporting facilities or more appropriately the lack of the same in this part of the country, almost for sure, in her early teens when perhaps she was taking part in various sporting events, be it volleyball, football, long jump, high jump or field and track without the faintest idea as to where her actual potential lay, children in other parts of the world were enjoying the best of facilities amidst ultra modern sporting infrastructure.
It only goes to prove how immense Hima’s potentials are. All credit goes to her, her parents and all those who guided and encouraged her during those presumably difficult early years for having reached the present level.
As of now, what is of utmost importance is the strategy to be adopted for Hima to grow into serious contender for Olympic medal(s). Entire Assam wishes and prays for the ‘Dhing Express’ with the hope that in the years to come she would come out with flying colours in all tracks across the globe, including the Olympics.
Most significantly, while being gifted with unbounded potential, her age is very much on her side to play a long innings (around 7 years at least) at the international level. All she needs now is proper guidance, coaching, facilities, infrastructure, financial support and encouragement.
In this respect the State Government mainly as well as the Central authorities owe a huge responsibility towards the grooming of Hima into an Olympic star and a conqueror of global meets of that level.
When it comes to field and track events, generally it is athletes from the early twenties to a little beyond the mid-twenties who clinch medals in the Olympics. The 19-year old ‘Dhing Express’ will be 21 years old by the time of the next Olympics and 25 years when the 2014 Olympics are held. For sure, Hima shot to the global limelight at the right time and the next six years or so would be vital for her when focus is on the Olympics.
While the next Olympics is just two years away from now, it is high time that a proper, effective and final strategy be put in place to facilitate Hima to put in her best efforts in the Olympics. In that backdrop, those calling the shots in Dispur and Delhi have the immediate task of creating the needful facilities for Hima to improve upon her best performance hitherto.
By her own admission she holds the 52ndposition in the world in women’s 400m event. But the maturity of the 19-year old girl from Dhing can be gauged from her comment that her immediate task is to run for better timing and not for medals.
That clearly shows that Hima fully knows that she has to improve her timing in 400m and that the same has to be brought down to under 50 seconds if she is to set international events, including the Olympic track, on fire. It now remains to be seen as what roadmap the State and Central sporting authorities, including the Athletic Federation of India (AFI), prepares for Hima on this count.
The award of Rs 1.6 crore announced by the Assam Government is indeed a welcome step. But as stated above, Dispur has a lot of responsibilities in the matter of grooming up of Hima for the Olympics, if, of course, it has any idea of the hair-splitting competition in such global events.
While it is not known as to what cards may be up the sleeves of Dispur for Hima, one surely feels that had she belonged to Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh or Haryana, the State government, in all probability, would have sent her to some world class coaching centres in Europe or in the United States for the next two years (or may be six years with an eye on the 2014 Olympics) for best possible coaching and facilities that only ultra modern infrastructures can provide. A separate budget might have been worked out for the purpose.
Unfortunately, it is still not known if Dispur has worked out any strategy to groom Hima for the 2020 Olympics. An award of Rs 1.6 crore does not fetch any medal in the Olympics. Further, it is highly ludicrous that the State Government has offered her a job in the Sports department.
Dispur may be told that Hima was born to set tracks on fire at the international level and not to become a ‘kerani’. Still worse, a political heavyweight has stated that a statue of Hima would be erected somewhere in Nagaon district. Without wasting too many words on such comments one may only say that this is height of stupidity exhibited by a politician.
Fortunately for the ‘Dhing Express’, sports management firm IOS Sports and Entertainment has signed a multi-crore 2-year contract with Hima under which the firm will manage all her commercial interests. Perhaps the contract will come to her aid in receiving the much needful world class coaching, if necessary, in abroad. Meanwhile, it may be highly appreciable if Dispur could kindly forget the ‘kerani baidow’ and ‘statue’ status for Hima.
Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org