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Hima Das: Sprinter Extraordinaire Who Likes to Keep the Best for the Last

The next aim is to do well at the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang later this year and her coach Nipon Das believes the teenager will be able to improve on her timing.

Arnab Sen | News18 Sports@arnabsentweet

Updated:July 21, 2018, 7:29 PM IST
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Hima Das: Sprinter Extraordinaire Who Likes to Keep the Best for the Last
Hima Das on her way to winning the 400 metres gold medal in the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships. (Courtesy: IAAF/Twitter)
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"Jo last 100 metres me karke dikhata hai, uska naam Hima Das hota hai" (Hima Das is the one who turns the tables in the last 100 metres). These were the words of 18-year old Hima Das when she spoke to her coach before the final of the 400 metres race at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships. And Hima walked the talk on the track as she blazed her way to glory, speeding away from the rest of the pack to become the first Indian to win a track medal at a global event.




"Apart from her physical ability as an athlete, what stands out in case of Hima is her mental strength. She is psychologically very strong and can make a comeback at any point in the race. She wasn't the fastest off the blocks, but she still managed to win by a huge margin," said her coach Nipon Das from Guwahati.

RAW TALENT

Das had first spotted the teenager during a state level meet in 2016. Her natural ability as an athlete impressed the seasoned coach, who immediately decided to take the prodigy under his wings.

"She had come all the way from her village and didn't have proper spikes. But I was impressed by her raw speed and natural ability as a runner. I brought her to Guwahati in January 2017 after speaking to her parents.

"She used to stay in a rented house, practiced very hard throughout the day. By the time she would go back home, she used to be very tired. On top of that she had to cook her own meals. I realised she needed better facilities. I spoke to the director of the Sarusajai Sports Complex in Guwahati and got her to stay and train there," Das said during a telephonic conversation with News18 Sports.




After a spate of good performances at several national and international meets in the 200 metres, Das and his colleague Nabajit Malakar decided to put the teenager in the quarter-mile and that call worked wonders for Hima.

"We realised Hima had good speed endurance. She was good in 200 metres but wasn't quick enough and hence couldn't have gone far in the event. Her ability to conserve energy and then fire away in the last 150 metres made us hopeful of her success in the 400 metres event. We also knew that she could make the relay team, so 400 metres was a wise choice," says an elated Das about his ward.

PADDY FIELDS TO RACE TRACK

Hima is the eldest of four children of paddy farmer Ranjib Das and homemaker Jonali Das. She had a knack for sports from childhood itself and the family supported her all through.

"She used to play football with us as a kid. She also played for the school's football team. Her teacher at the Jawahar Lal Navodaya Vidyalaya spotted her talent as a runner and asked her to switch from football to athletics," Hima's cousin Joy Das told News18 Sports during a telephonic conversation.

The atmosphere at her village home in Dhing in central Assam's Nagaon district is that of a carnival and this victory is being celebrated with pomp.

"She had said she will come back with a medal. But she never runs for medals, she always runs to improve her timing. The entire village is at our house right now, and we are all celebrating. We are waiting for Hima to come back, it will be a grand reception."


NEXT TARGET - ASIAN GAMES

Hima Das qualified for the finals of the 400 metres at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games earlier this year and finished a creditable sixth. She was also part of the 4x400 metres relay team which finished seventh in the final.

The next aim is to do well at the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang later this year and her coach Nipon Das believes the teenager will be able to improve on her timing.

"I don't want to say that she will be a medal contender but we have a month to go for the Asian Games and she will definitely improve her timing. She has just started and I have faith in her abilities. She could well become India's first Olympic medallist at a track event," Das signed off.
| Edited by: Arnab Sen
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