Indian 400m star Hima Das is set to be one of her country’s big hopes for the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021. Here are five essential facts you need to know about the speedy 21-year-old, who will be racing this weekend at the World Relay Championships.
She’s the fastest 400m runner in the whole of India
Despite Hima Das’s age being only 21, the athlete from Dhing in the state of Assam, India has already made history for her country. In 2018, she became India’s fastest-ever female over the 400m distance when she clocked 50.79 seconds en route to a silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.
What made the record even more impressive for the then 18-year-old was the fact she had already broken the national record – a 15-year-old mark of 51.05 set by Manjeet Kaur in 2004 – in the qualifying round, when she set a time of 51.00.
“There is a huge pressure,” the athlete told firstpost.com when reflecting on the final, “And I feel it just before going onto the track that I may not be able to do it. But once I am on the track it all recedes away.”
Needless to say, the athlete nicknamed 'Dhing Express' was destined for the very top.
Hima Das is a Deputy Superintendent Of Police (DSP)
It’s not only on the athletics track that the super-fast athlete ranks highly, because now Hima Das is a DSP – or Detective Superintendent Of Police – in her native state of Assam. Das was appointed to the position in a ceremony that took place in February 2021, revealing that joining the police force was something she and her family been thinking of since she was a young child:
“People here know and I am not going to say anything different. Since my early school days, I harboured a wish to become a police officer one day and my mother also wished that,” Das is quoted as saying in India Today. “She would buy a gun during Durga Puja, my mother would tell me to work in Assam police, serve the people and become a good person.”
She's already a medal-winning history-maker
Hima Das may only be 21-years-old but that hasn't stopped her blazing a trail for a new generation of Indian athletes. In July 2018, Das won India’s first-ever gold in track events at the IAAF World U20 Championships when she stormed home in 51.46 seconds in the 400m final. Not only that, her performance made her the first Indian track athlete to win a medal of any colour at the World Junior Championships.
Das’s proud moment saw her join Neeraj Chopra (javelin gold medal in 2016), Seema Punia (discus bronze medal in 2002) and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (discus bronze medal in 2014) as the only athletes from India to have medalled in a World Junior Championships.
(Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for IAAF). 2018 Getty Images
She has a formidable sprint partner in Dutee Chand
When Hima Das lines up in the 4x100m relay race at the World Athletics Relays Silesia 21 that take place on 1-2 May, she won’t be the only Indian athlete on the starting line with aspirations to win medals in Tokyo. 25-year-old Dutee Chand, a Rio 2016 Olympian and only the third Indian woman to qualify for the 100m at an Olympic Games, will also be part of the four-person team hoping to triumph in the relay event.
Chand, who is the national champion over 100m, has a personal best of 11.22 seconds in the 100m and 23 seconds flat in the 200m. Together with Archana Susendran and Sekar Dhanalakshmi – who won 100m gold ahead of Chand in the Federation Cup – the lightning-quick quartet are already looking forward to the summer Games.
“We are confident that we can qualify for the Olympics during the World Relays. We should do it," Das told PTI. “I am in very good shape and the other members are also doing well and preparing well. We have done really well in the Federation Cup.”
(Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images). 2018 Getty Images
Football was her first love
Before Das got her start in athletics, she was an avid fan of football. In an interview with Pranay Bordoloi of Prag News, Das explained: “I used to play football earlier as a striker. I really wanted to wear the Indian national team jersey one day, but honestly, I didn’t even know if a national women’s team even existed. Even now, I don’t know if they exist. By the way, I have quite a few goals in Assam under my name.”
But football's loss is athletics' gain, as Das looks to be one of the most exciting talents in the world of athletics today.