“Aap sacch bol rahe ho na? This is true?”, Dutee Chand quizzed with disbelief, as The Bridge caught up with the star sprinter on Friday afternoon, moments after the Chinese media declared the 2022 Asian Games postponed to an unspecified future date.
A 2-time silver medallist from the 2018 edition of the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, Chand was pinning all her hopes on getting gold at the upcoming Asian Games that were previously scheduled to be held in Hangzhou, China from September 10th to 25th, later this year.
Provoked by the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in China, this decision has been taken, easily bringing deja-vu thoughts of the Tokyo Olympics getting postponed from 2020 to 2021. All eyes will now be on the 2023 calendar to see how and where the Games will be accommodated in the run-up year to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“This can’t be happening again. For athletes who are into running, age plays a crucial role, if the Games get postponed like this, it just means more trouble for us,” Chand voiced, her mind still trying to process the information thoroughly.
READ | Dutee Chand announces shock retirement
Pausing a little, she continues, “We aren’t getting any younger, right? I am not that fast anymore as I used to be, pushing back the Asian Games would only harass the athletes more, I feel.”
Fresh off her appearance at the Khelo India University Games where Chand defended her 100m gold successfully and bagged the silver in the 200m, losing to teenage sensation Priya Mohan, the 26-year-old had chalked out a plan for herself to peak during the June-July season.
With the World University Meet also scheduled to be held in Chengdu, China from 26th June, Chand’s plans are now derailed with this fresh piece of information, as the Meet too get postponed given its venue and the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I don’t even know what to feel, all my efforts for a medal will now go to waste. Sab paani mein chala jaayega!”, she exclaimed.
Famously, Chand became the first Indian to win a gold medal in a track and field event at the 30th Summer Universiade 2019 in Naples where she clocked an impressive 11.32 seconds in the 100m dash.
READ | 10 hours after winning 400m title, Priya Mohan beats Dutee Chand to win 200m gold medal
The age factor
Dutee was keen on bagging gold at Asiad 2022 (Source: Reuters)
Looking to reproduce and better her results at both the University Games and the Asian Games, Dutee Chand will now have to take fresh stock of matters since these two key events for her this year are on the verge of not happening at all in 2022.
“I am doing well on the circuit now too, I bagged 2 medals from Khelo India and I was set on the path to go for gold at Asian Games, but the postponement will now heavily alter the plans,” she reflected.
Fair enough, the Commonwealth Games are also on the radar for her and she will train her mind to qualify for it, but she isn’t so hopeful of a medal from that.
“Yes, I will continue my training like I do but to be frank, we don’t have a shot at winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games in running,” Chand confessed.
“The very best of Europe and Africa participate there and their personal bests hover around the 10 seconds mark, whereas mine is 11.17 seconds currently. I can bring it down to 11.10 seconds perhaps but that won’t do it for a medal at CWG, Asian was our real hope,” she conveyed realistically.
Only recently Chand mentioned that she has plans of hanging up her boots after the Paris Olympics and age has become a factor for her now.
Elaborating on it, Chand continued, “You see, the more we age, our tendency to get injured also increases. My muscles are no longer as strong as they used to be during my teens and early 20s. Right now, I frequently end up hurting my hamstring, my knees and my back pains – these are all factors of age,” she explained.
“That said, I feel I was on the track this time to get gold at Asian. If it happens next year, I will be 27 and that really won’t be easy for me, ” the Odisha athlete asserted.
“For the life of me, I cannot understand why they are doing all these events in China!”, she exclaimed.
“Do it anywhere else, no? We know COVID is still a thing in China, so why risk it at all? We athletes are ready,” she mused.
“Do it in India only, na? We have such good stadiums too! I mean, stop postponing and harassing athletes this way and creating so much confusion and anxiety, it’s really sad,” Chand, with frustration ringing her voice, wondered with a nervous chuckle.
It’s my dream to build an Academy: Dutee Chand
While the dream to clinch gold at the Asian Games may have taken a slight hit with this announcement of the postponement, Dutee Chand is not one to be completely disheartened as she has plenty of future plans to worry about.
Of them, chief of which is the ‘Dutee Chand Athletics Speed Academy’ that she plans to open after her retirement to train upcoming sprinters.
“I’ve been associated with sports all my life. When I won the silvers at the Asian, I decided that I want to build an Academy to spot talent,” she mentioned.
“After Paris 2024, I’ll see how my body is. If it is okay, I might continue with sports for two-three years more but then I plan on shifting my focus to the Academy,” she mentioned.
“So many athletes are there in India and there is a lot of talent but there isn’t the right kind of coaching being given. I hope to pass on my experience and insights and hone the next breed of track and field athletes for India,” the star sprinter stated, a tone of excitement rising in her voice, despite the news of Asiad getting postponed still niggling the back of her mind, as she signed off.