- "My timing is good for a medal at the Asian Games, but my focus of course will be on improving my time. If the time goes down, the medal will follow, no?" said Hima Das from the Patiala national camp to The Bridge after the Commonwealth Games.
After the Gold Coast Games, the 18-year-old from Assam's Dhing village held the distinction of the best ever finish for an Indian woman sprinter in the history of the Commonwealth Games (6th place at the 2018 CWG), but the confidence in her voice suggests the best is yet to come.
Hima's new personal best 400-metre timing (51.32 seconds), established at the CWG, is the best in Asia this year. By 1.71 seconds, an astronomical figure on the sprint track. In fact, the four fastest 400m sprints registered by Asians in 2018 have all been by Hima. The Jakarta Asian Games in August will be only her second competition on the senior circuit, but the numbers augur a gold medal. Since PT Usha, only one Indian woman sprinter - Saraswati Dey Saha - has struck gold at the Asian Games.
Being part of history is something Hima seems to have understood will be a logical part of her career. "I wanted to do something new. The support that I'm getting now might mean I'm on course," she said.
"At the CWG, I competed with the best runners in the world for the first time. I observed how they do the little things differently. The next time I get to run with them, I shall surely medal," added Hima.
'Anything is Possible'
There were more than 30,000 people at the Carrarra Stadium on the day of the CWG sprint final - the volume of their shreaks rising with the seconds as Hima made her final dash, coming up from the rear at the very end to finish just behind the leading pack. "Everyone would feel a little nervous on seeing such a big crowd for the first time," said Hima. "But I have this special Assamese phrase which I hold close to my heart - Mon Jai - which means anything is possible," she added.
Not only has Hima's 6th place finish at the CWG received praise from all quarters, her swagger on the track has stood out as well. Hima said, "Like a footballer raises his hands after scoring a goal, my pre-race gesture with the hands and saying the Assamese phrase to the camera make me feel as if I'm in the zone."
Even if a CWG medal proved to be just beyond her reach, Hima's performance fulfilled the promise she had made before the Games.
She said, "I do what I say I'll do. I told my coach I'll decrease my personal best by half a second, and that's exactly what I did. A medal was always going to be tough."
Hima came up with two new personal bests on consecutive days at the CWG. Those two runs are the 18th and 25th best in the world this year as of now. In 2018, eleven women have run faster than her - all of whom are from Africa, Jamaica or USA.The sparkle of India's 66 CWG medals has set off something close to an euphoria, but in a quieter corner, the dream Hima Das has sparked continues to burn as brightly.