On Thursday, athlete Hima Das made history by becoming India’s first ever track and field gold medallist at the IAAF World Championships, when she aced the women’s 400 m event at the IAAF World U-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland. The 18-year-old from Assam clocked 51.46 seconds, edging out Romania’s Andrea Milkos (silver) and America’s Taylor Manson (bronze).
The daughter of a farmer from the village of Dhing in Assam’s Nagaon district, Hima’s talent was spotted by Nipon Das last January and he went on to become her coach. According to a report in the Indian Express, Nipon, an athletics coach with the Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare, convinced Hima to shift to Guwahati for better facilities.At the New Delhi Indian GP last May, she finished fifth at the 100m, but in September she showed what she was capable of by finishing first at the 200m at the Chennai Indian Open.
At the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games this April, Hima finished sixth at the 400m (51.32 seconds) and seventh at the 4x400m relay. However, her personal best at the 400m didn’t come in Tampere, but at the Inter State Championships at Guwahati this June where she clocked 51.13 seconds.
Her rise has been steady this year, with podium finishes at 100m, 200m, 400m and 4x400m relay at Patiala, Jakarta (for the Asian Games pre-tournament) and Guwahati.
Ahead of the Tampere 400m final, Hima cruised into the semi-final as the fastest qualifier overall, clocking 52.25s. She entered the women’s 400m final after winning the semi-final in 52.10s.
“She does not get overawed by anybody and does not care about her opponents. In every race, her goal is to beat the best with better timing,” Nipon told The Hindu.
“Hima made rapid strides after joining the National camp in November. From doing 55.57 for 400m in the East Zone meet in September, she has come a long way in short time.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too reached out to congratulate her. “India is delighted and proud of athlete Hima Das, who won a historic Gold in the 400m of World U20 Championships… This accomplishment will certainly inspire young athletes in the coming years,” he posted on Twitter.