Girl, uninterrupted

first_img Next Chinki Sinha New DelhiJuly 26, 2019UPDATED: July 26, 2019 10:35 IST A portrait of Dutee Chand. (Photograph by Bandeep Singh/India Today) The photo of the doll with rainbow-colored braids she posted with the medal on social media, saying no matter how much they pulled her down, she would come back stronger, was symbolic. On July 10, she clocked 11.32 seconds and won the gold at the World University Games in Naples, becoming in the process only the second Indian sprinter to win a gold at an international event (after Hima Das, who finished on top in 400m at the 2018 World Junior Athletics Championships).In May, she had declared she was in a same-sex relationship with a woman from her village. They shunned her. Her mother, sister and the village people. It was unnatural, they said. But India’s fastest woman, Dutee Chand, has put it all behind her. She knows from experience that rejection can play havoc with performance. And she also knows from experience that she must fight back. Her coming out was hailed as a watershed moment in the history of Indian sports, where she is now the first openly “gay” athlete.Soon after she declared her relationship, the dailies reported on May 26 from another part of her home state Odisha that a 19-year-old woman had been tied to a tree and beaten by villagers for being in a lesbian relationship. The Asian Games medallist said she had been in a relationship with a girl who she calls “saathi” since 2017.After her mother and sister turned against her, Chand has held steadfast to her statement–nobody can live without love. There is a little laugh at the other end of the line when we talk. The 23-year-old is currently training in Hyderabad for the World Championships to be held in Doha in September-October.advertisement”But my life has never been without issues,” she says.As she trains for the upcoming World Championship (she will have to shave off 0.06 seconds from the 11:32 seconds she did at the Universiade to qualify), Chand is trying to keep everything else at bay. Once it affected her. That was 2014, when they called her a “boy” after a “gender test” and banned her citing her high testosterone levels. At just 5′ 6″, Chand was, competitors and coaches said, suspiciously fast. They told the federation her physique seemed masculine.It was because of a clinical condition called ‘hyperandrogenism’ and she appealed the verdict at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). That one victory, in what was a landmark case, set a precedent. She is today an advocate of the athletes’ rights over their bodies pitched in a battle against patriarchy in the domain of sports.And again it’s happening. South African Olympic champion Caster Semenya is facing the same ordeal after the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for Sport in Lausanne dismissed her appeal. International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) rules require that female athletes with higher testosterone levels regulate their condition by taking suppressive treatment or medication if they wish to compete as females in 400m, 800m and 1500m.”This is wrong of the IAAF, and whatever reasons they give for their rules, it is still wrong. I fought my case and I won, but now Semenya and some others are again battling for their rights,” Chand has said in support of the sprinter who has been in a gender row since 2009.Chand was dropped unceremoniously from the 2014 Commonwealth Games squad for failing a hyperandrogenism test. She had no clue what it meant then, but she challenged it and eventually won the case after the athletics body found “insufficient evidence”.The IAAF says women’s sport is a “protected class” and placing conditions is necessary in order “to ensure fair and meaningful competition.”Back then in 2015, Chand had shut up critics with her electric performances to qualify for the Rio Olympics. It is a long battle, she says.In a brown waist coat and pants, she looks happy in her photos from Rome this July. She is like any other girl – taking selfies, posing and smiling with a dash of lipstick.Once, she thought that just being able to hold down a job, and survive on her own added up to a good life. Growing up in a household with seven children in Gopalpur in Odisha was tough. Her father was a weaver and money was hard to find. With less than Rs 100 per day, her father found it difficult to feed the family. Her elder sister Saraswati was a runner too and got a job with the police. She was the one who encouraged Dutee to run, who bought her her first pair of sneakers. But Dutee’s sprint would take her elsewhere. At 10, she was accepted into a state-sponsored program where boarding and lodging and food were covered. That was in 2006.advertisementIn 2008, she started winning medals at junior national-level meets.To be a runner meant getting a job. Until she started breaking records, she says. In 2016, she got a job as a manager in the state-run Odisha Mining Corporation. And now, she will return to her native state to train fellow at the ‘Dutee Chand Athletic Track’, named after her at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) in Bhubaneswar.”We have many sprinters in Odisha. We need a training academy for them,” she says.Chand studied at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, a deemed university in Bhubaneswar.She has come a long way from being a girl who ran barefoot along the banks of the river. She has built a house for her parents, and now plans on making one for herself.She has been unapologetic about everything. At one point, she owned 15 cars. “I love cars,” she says. And then sold them all off. She bought a blue BMW last year and also owns a Ford EcoSport.”Right now, I want to build a house for myself and then buy more cars,” Chand says.And again, there is that laugh on the end of the line. “I want to live freely,” she says.Chand is girl, uninterrupted.READ | The battle to save the Great Indian Bustard | India Today InsightALSO READ | They hail you or they hate you, it’s all equally illusory: Boris Johnson | India Today InsightALSO WATCH | From Jajpur to Jakarta. Here’s Dutee Chand’s inspiring rags to riches storyGet real-time alerts and all the news on your phone with the all-new India Today app. Download from Post your comment Do You Like This Story? Awesome! Now share the story Too bad. Tell us what you didn’t like in the comments Posted byKritika Bansal Tags :Follow Dutee Chand Girl, uninterrupted | India Today InsightDutee Chand comes out in support of South African Olympic champion Caster Semenya and says freedom to run is important.advertisementlast_img read more