When Hima Das ran India’s cricket superstars close
In July 2019, Indian sprinter Hima Das was sharing headlines with the likes of cricketing behemoths Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
At a time the Indian cricket team was engaged in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, the diminutive runner from Assam managed to split the collective attention of the cricket-crazy nation on the back of her incredible run of five gold medals in just 19 days on the European track and field arena.
Coming back from a back injury she sustained during the Asian Athletics Championships in April 2019, Hima Das was out to prove herself. And she did it five times over - in a single month.
First gold at Poznan Athletics Grand Prix, Poland
In what was her first competitive race of the calendar year at the Poznan Athletics Grand Prix in Poland, Hima Das clocked 23.65 seconds to bag gold in 200m race, beating silver medallist- South Africa’s Tamzin Thomas by just 0.06 seconds.
Hima Das’ Indian compatriot VK Vismaya finished with the bronze medal with a time of 23.75 seconds.
Second gold at Kutno Athletics Meet, Poland
Five days later, on July 7, Hima Das overcame a slow start to win her second 200m gold at the Kutno Athletics Meet in Poland. The Indian athlete timed at 23.97 seconds to beat VK Vismaya (24.06 seconds) to the top podium.
With the Indian cricket team getting knocked out in the World Cup 2019 semi-final on July 9, Hima Das took wings again four days later, softening the blow on Indian sports fans.
Third gold at Kladno Athletics Meet, Czech Republic
The stage had shifted to the Kladno Memorial Athletics Meet at Kladno in the Czech Republic, but the result was the same – another gold for the Assam sprinter.
Hima Das ran the 200m in 23.43 seconds in the event to complete her golden hat-trick on July 13.
She comfortably beat Sierra Leone’s Hafsatu Kamara who won silver with 24.25 seconds and Brazil’s Tamiris de Liz, who clinched bronze after clocking 24.28 seconds.
Fourth gold at Tabor Athletics Meet, Czech Republic
The 20-year-old soon made it four in 15 days with yet another 200m gold at the Tabor Athletics Meet, setting a time of 23.25 seconds. VK Vismaya finished second with 23.43 seconds followed by 2013 European U-20 Championships bronze medallist Klara Seidlova.
Fifth gold at Mezinarodni Atleticky Mitink, Czech Republic
Capping off the sensational gold rush was top honours in the 400m race at the Mezinarodni Atleticky Mitink in Nove Mesto, Prague, on July 20.
Running her staple event, Hima Das timed at 52.09 seconds to lead a 1-2-3 finish by Indian runners at the event. VK Vismaya (52.48 seconds) finished second while Sarita Gayakwad (53.28 seconds) came in third.
An incredible feat in its own right, plaudits kept flowing in from all corners, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar raising a toast to Hima Das’ accomplishments.
Even Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Anushka Sharma and others showered praise on India’s ‘Golden Girl’.
Hima Das’ sixth gold in Europe
To top all of it off, almost a month later, at the Athleticky Mitink Reiter 2019 in the Czech Republic, Hima Das clinched yet another gold in the 300m.
Keeping it real
Following the flurry of medals, it seemed Hima Das was on the fast track to success but the Dhing Express kept her feet firmly planted on the ground.
Shortly after her five-medal run, in a video published by ANI, Hima Das noted, “It’s really nice to receive such plaudits from all over. I hope everyone keeps blessing me throughout like they did.
“However, the events I won my five golds at are just training or warm-ups for the bigger events to come. Please keep supporting me so I can do well on the big stage,” she added.
Hima Das’ cautious perception of her success was well-warranted.
While the two events in Poland were rated F, the three in the Czech Republic were graded E – placing them in the elementary rungs of the 10 categories of events recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Hima Das’ personal bests compared to event timings
Furthermore, Hima Das’ performances during her five-medal streak were far from her best.
The IAAF World U-20 Championships 2018 gold medallist’s best 200m timing over the course of these five events was 23.25 seconds at Tabor. Compared to her personal best of 23.10 seconds in the 200m which she set in June 2018 at Guwahati, it fell short.
Her gold-winning 400m run in 52.09 seconds at Nove Mesto, too, didn’t quite match up to her personal best of 50.79 seconds – a national record – she set during her silver medal charge at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.
Even her 51.32 second run during her sixth-placed finish in the 2018 Commonwealth Games was better.
The run, however, did have its upsides. While coming back from a serious injury, success, in any form, is a huge boost for athletes. It was no different for Hima Das.
The youngster’s maturity under the spotlight also proved her ability to keep things in perspective without getting carried away by praise and accolades.
Furthermore, having decided to shift focus to the 200m from her staple 400m event for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, the 200m events provided the talented sprinter with a much-needed international exposure in the format.
Hima Das’ Olympic dream
Unfortunately, a flare-up of her back injury leading up to the World Athletics Championships 2019 saw Hima Das’ road to Tokyo sidetracked.
At one point, an appearance on the big stage seemed all but over but with the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021 and the IAAF moving all the qualifying events back as a result has given the sprinter a new lease of hope.
“I believe life is all about making a comeback and working towards your goals.
“As an athlete, it’s very important to stay focused towards your goals and keep working hard. Definitely, the goal is to win an Olympic medal,” she says.