At a time when newspaper headlines are being dominated by the Luka Modrics and the Roger Federers in what has been a busy sports season, an 18-year-old Indian girl, Hima Das, joined the galactic stars by scripting track history at the IAAF U20 World Championships in Finland on Thursday, July 12.
The Assamese sprinter-turned quarter miler became the first-ever Indian athlete to win a global track title when she clocked 51.46s in the women's 400m event in Tampere, Finland. She is also the first Indian woman to win a global title at an IAAF event.
Das was one of the favourites to win the 400m final on Thursday following her chart-topping semi-final run of 52.10s.
However, she was no better than the fourth-best athlete before the final turn. And that's when the teenager came up with a burst of pace and left the chasing pack behind to script history.
The teenager showed tremendous composure even as the likes of silver medalist Andrea Miklos of Romania, bronze medalist Taylor Manson of the USA and Ella Connolly of Australia were ahead of her for the most part of the race.
And when Hima was making the jaw-dropping burst in the home straight, the on-air commentator wonderfully described the few seconds, saying: "Here comes Hima Das, the Indian... she can see the line... she can see history."
Das now joins Commonwealth Games gold medalist Neeraj Chopra as the only two Indian athletes to have finished on the top step of the podium at the World U20 Championships.
Here's all that you need to know about Hima Das, India's latest sporting sensation.
- Hima Das was born on January 9, 2000, in the Assamese city of Nagon.
- She is the youngest among five siblings born to Jomali Das and Ronjit Das, both of whom are rice farmers in the northeast Indian state.
Das was hoping for a career in football until two years ago
- Das wasn't into athletics until a little more than two years ago. Her family's financial situation wasn't an ideal one to nurture a sportsperson.
- The teenager though was playing football as a striker for local clubs in the village and earned as high as Rs 500 per match, according to The Indian Express.
- However, upon the insistence of her Physical Training teacher, Das shifted her focus to track events.
- Das began taking part in 100m events as she had lacked the training for longer distances. Nonetheless, Das impressed by winning a bronze at the state championships in Guwahati.
- Reaching the final at the National Junior Championships in Coimbatore in 2016 came as a pleasant surprise as Das had competed with the best from the age category from across the country.
- Medals in the 100m and 200m events at school nationals and youth nationals came her way last year after she had left her hometown to train in Guwahati with coaches Nabajit Malakar Nipon Das.
- Das finished seventh at Asian Youth Championships in Bangkok and continued her successful run by finishing an impressive fifth in the World Youth Championships in Nairobi.
Das hadn't run a competitive 400m race at the national level until earlier this year
- A big leap in Das' career came when she was selected for the national senior camp. The teenager was asked to replace a runner who had pulled out at the last minute ahead of the 4*400m women's relay at the Asian Games Test event in Jakarta earlier this year.
- An impressive performance helped her grab the attention of the national coaches, who made the teenage prodigy train for the longer distance — 400m.
- Das stunned the 400m field that had experienced athletes, including Olympian MR Poovamma, at the Federation Cup in March as she won the gold in 51.97s.
- In what was her first competitive race at the national level in 400m, the 18-year-old not just finished on the top step of the podium but also qualified for Commonwealth Games 2018.
- Around two years ago, Das wasn't even aware of what Commonwealth Games was but she went to Gold Coast, made the final and set a personal best of 51.32, finishing fifth among the elite athletes.