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Odisha talent gets honed for glory

Dutee Chand

Jamshedpur, Nov. 10: At 17, Odisha’s Dutee Chand is unassuming and shy, just like any other youngster of her age.

But strap this Tata Athletics Academy trainee in some running shoes and put her on a race track and she will set it on fire, breezing past competition and making meet records tumble.

Dutee, who experts believe has the makings of an international athlete if groomed properly, was on Thursday selected to attend the senior national preparatory camps for two major international competitions — 2013 Asian Track and Field Championship and 2014 Asian Games. The camps are scheduled to be held in Patiala from November 19.

Dutee, who hails from Jajpur, rewrote the meet as well as the national record at the Junior National Inter-State Athletics Championship — held in Lucknow from October 27 to 31 — by clocking 11.93secs in the 100m sprint and 24.28secs in the 200m dash.

The performance, which fetched her the best athlete in the U-18 girls’ category honour, also created quite the buzz with experts comparing the girl with her predecessors from Tata Athletics Academy — Sinimol Paulos, Ashwini Nakunji, Namita Kabat and Amit Kumar — all sprinters of national acclaim.

“Dutee was declared the best athlete in the U-18 girls’ category for her record breaking performance in the 200m dash. She also earned a call to the senior national camp based on her performances in Lucknow,” said Satnam Singh, coach at Tata Athletics Academy.

Singh, who has been mentoring Dutee since she joined the academy in 2009, is optimistic about her chances of making the cut to the national squad for the two international competitions. “She is a natural sprinter, who claimed the 400m gold in the junior national inter-state meet just months after she joined the academy. She was declared the best athlete in that meet also,” Singh told The Telegraph.

After joining, Dutee’s stay at the Tata athletics cradle did not last long as she had to go back to Odisha again to prepare for her board examinations, returning only in 2011.

The prodigious sprinter never looked back after that, bagging the 100m gold in junior zonal meet held in Calcutta in 2012 and later repeating the feat at a junior inter-zonal championship held in Pune.