New Delhi: At 17, sprinter Dutee Chand has caught the attention of the Indian athletics fraternity with her bronze medal in the Asian Athletics Championships early this month, and the teenager is now determined to make a mark at the international stage.
Chand, who grabbed a bronze in women`s 200m in Asian Championships in Pune in her maiden international race, is being talked about as the next big thing in Indian athletics.
She ran 23.76secs in 200m in Pune and 11.62secs in 100m dash in the World Youth Championships in Ukraine -- both creditable timings for someone of her age.
Her coaches feel that national records of 11.38secs and 22.82secs in women`s 100m and 200m would be hers in a few years` time.
Born to a cotton weaver father at Odisha`s non-descript Chaka Gopalpur village at Jajpur district, Chand, just like any athlete, wants to win an Olympic medal but she also struggles to find time to complete her Bachelor of Business Administration degree.
"My ultimate aim is to win a gold in the Olympics but I also want to complete my BBA degree. I need that because I want to get a secured job as soon as possible," Chand said.
Asked about her immediate plans, Chand said, "I am participating in the Asian Youth Games in China next month and looking to win a gold there in both 100m and 200m."
"Then next year, I want to do well in Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. So the next one and half years is very important for me," she said.
She has enrolled herself for the BBA course at a college in Bhuvaneswar, which is 45kms from his home.
"My parents want me to complete the five-year BBA course so that I can get a good government job on the basis of sports. Just 12th class pass will not give you a good job. So I study at least three hours at my hostel at NIS Patiala, mostly afternoon."
"In the morning, I have to get up early for training and you can`t do anything till lunch time. After that I get some time before the evening training. So in between 2 and 4pm, I do study. At night I try to do study for another hour. But that is difficult after evening training," Chand said.
Chand`s coach N Ramesh, who was instrumental in bringing her at the NIS Patiala, is confident that her ward would win medals at the Asian and Commonwealth Games next year.
"She has got the talent. In my long career as coach since 1999, Chand is the first Indian girl to have run 11.62secs in 100m and 23.76secs in 200m at the youth (18 years) level. She can be the next big thing in Indian athletics," Ramesh said.
It was Ramesh and another fellow coach who brought Chand at NIS Patiala after they came to know of her achievements from her elder sister Saraswati Chand who was at the camp in Patiala. Saraswati was a member of 4x400m relay gold winning Indian quartet at the Asian Grand Prix series in 2012.
"We came to know about Chand from her sister. We told her sister to bring Chand at Patiala and I spent Rs 1500 to find an accommodation for her. She took part in the 2012 Youth Nationals in Bangalore where she won gold in 100m, 200m and 400m. That performance led to her being chosen for national camp at NIS Patiala.
"Then she was adjudged the best athlete in National School Games at Etawah in Uttar Pradesh early this year and she was handed a nano car by the state chief minister. In the first senior level competition at the National Inter-State in Chennai in June, she finished second in 200m and qualified for Asian Championships," he said.
The third daughter in a family of seven with four other sisters and one brother, Chand said it was difficult for her father to run the family with his income from cotton weaving.
"It`s difficult for my father to run the family. I have been promised Rs 25,000 by the Odisha Olympic Association and of course I will get the government incentive for winning bronze in Asian Championships in Pune.
"But the course fee for BBA is high. Track and field athletes don`t get money like cricketers and I heard this Indian Badminton League also recently. So I have to get a government job soon and my parents have been saying that," she said.
Asked whether she would be able to take examinations for her course, Chand said, "The principal has assured me that I can take the examination as I am in the national camp (at NIS Patiala)."
She said she was disappointed not to have timed better than the 11.62secs, which she clocked in the heats in World Youth Championships.
"There was no recovery time as I had to run twice in a day. Also, the food there was not to my liking. I don`t like non-vegetarian food much and there the food is mostly chicken, mutton like that," she said.
"But I think I can one day break the national record of 11.38secs in women`s 100m and also the 200m," she said.