India’s star 400m sprinter Hima Das has been asked to focus on 200m by the national federation, who believe that the athlete doesn’t have the needed conditioning after returning from injury.
The Assam athlete, also known as Dhing Express, claimed to fame by winning the gold medal at the IAAF World U20 Championships in 400m before she became a household name by winning the 4x400m women’s and mixed relay events at the Asian Games in 2018.
“It does not make sense to focus on the 400 metres this season because she does not have the basic conditioning level she needs,” Athletics Federation of India’s high-performance director Volker Herrmann was quoted saying by the Indian Express.
“And, in the 400 metres you need a decent amount of endurance and considering that now there are only four and a half months till the end of the qualifying period for the 2020 Olympics, we didn’t want to make similar mistakes of last season and we didn’t want to force anything.”
“If we put her into 400-metre competitions again there would be a lot of pressure. She is still young and we don’t want to rush anything,” he added.
The injury that paused Hima Das career
The extent of Hima Das’ injury first came to the fore when she was ruled out of the World Championships in 2019 owing to a back injury, which further got extended to the World Championships where she wasn’t named in the 4x400 metre relay and mixed relay squads.
It was later found that the 19-year-old athlete wasn’t fit for the IAAF World Relays either, which was held in Yokohama in May that year, but she competed anyway. The athlete from Assam was suffering from Lumbar Spondylitis, a career-threatening injury for an athlete, which she had sustained prior to the Yokohama event at the Asian Athletic Championships in Doha in April.
Now that Hima Das has left behind her injury-struck 2019 campaign behind, the federation is taking all the precautionary measures.
Hence, as per Herrmann, she has been advised to focus on the 200 metres.
“The goal is to improve her personal best, and from 2021 onwards with better speed base and hopefully with more endurance as well, she can focus on improving her 400-metre performance,” he added.
The decision was taken collectively by AFI’s think-tank, which comprised chief coach Bahadur Singh, deputy chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair, 400-metre coach Galina Bukharina and Herrmann.
Olympics dream on the line
The call to keep Hima Das’ focus on the 200m is taken keeping in mind the improvement it can bring to her speed for the longer events in 2021. The eventual target is getting the athlete closer to the average of world-class 400 metres runners (22.80 in the 200m), which will help her go faster in the one-lap race.
However, this affects Hima Das’ 2020 Olympics dream where she will now have a mountain to climb in the 200m event. With Hima Das’ personal best in the 200m event at 23.10 seconds, which she had clocked mid-2018, she now must meet the Entry Standards for the Games, which is set at 22.80 seconds.
However, with Hima Das’ brilliant run last year where she won five gold medals in a month, four of which came in the 200 metres event, Indian fans will keep their hopes up.
Can Hima Das still feature at 2020 Olympics?
Hima Das, however, could still be representing India at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with the AFI still looking at the 20-year-old as a probable in the 4x400 metre relay squads.
“Maybe in the relay, she could run but we have to see. It depends of course on the quality of the other runners. Right now, it is too early to say,” Herrmann said.
India’s relay squads will next be facing Germany at the end of May eyeing to get more exposure and improving their timing in order to keep themselves in the top-16, which is the cut-off rank for the 2020 Olympics.