Dutee Chand on her academy desire to help aspiring athletes shine

The sprinter, who made her Olympics debut in Rio, wants to build a stadium for aspiring athletes.

By Rahul Venkat

For a flatout sprinter, Dutee Chand has had plenty of hurdles to overcome on her rise to the top of Indian athletics.

Chand is currently resuming her training for Tokyo 2020, where she will look to represent her country at a second Olympic Games.

Last year, the sprinter became the first Indian to win the women's 100m at the World University Games.

The achievement came after Chand revealed that she was in a same-sex relationship; another huge barrier broken as India's only openly-gay athlete.

For Chand, such trailblazing is part of the plan to make it easier for the next generation.

The sprinter more than most empathizes with youngsters who want to rise to her level.

“For somebody like me, who has trained barefoot in a small village in Odisha, I know training without proper facilities can be extremely difficult,” the 24-year-old told Vogue in an interview.

“Having experienced it all, I would like to give back to my community by creating an academy. I don’t want another child aspiring to be a runner to run barefoot or run around a lake like me.

“I want to make their dreams come true by building a stadium for them to train in.”

Helping the community comes naturally to the Indian sprinter, who has taken the initiative to distribute essential items to the underprivileged in her home in Odisha during the lockdown.

“It was so humbling and reassuring to receive blessings from the elderly in my village with so much love and affection,” Dutee Chand added.

“It was very satisfying that I could do something for the society and the village where I grew up.”

Preparing for Tokyo

Dutee Chand had managed to return home from the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala just before the lockdown was announced and had been restricted to training alone since then.

The Indian sprinter returned to outdoor training late in May and her main aim is to be in the best shape for the qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

The 24-year-old had made her Olympic debut at Rio 2016 and if she wants to do that again, will have to better her current 100m national record of 11.22 seconds to make the mark.

Dutee Chand is likely to return to competition at the Indian Grand Prix, which is set to be the curtain-raiser for the 2020 Indian athletics season in September.