Hailing from the state of Tamil Nadu, 22-year-old Dhanalakshmi Sekhar grabbed the eyeballs of Indian fans with her splendid run in the 100m finals and 200m heats at the 24th Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championships back in March this year. She has since grown in stature and has now been selected as a part of the Indian mixed 4x400m relay team for the Tokyo Olympics.
Dhanalakshmi's selection to the Indian team came on the basis of her third-placed finish clocking 54.27 seconds in the trials organised by Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Sunday.
Tipped as the next big thing to look out for in Indian athletics, here are 10 things you should know about Dhanalakshmi the sprinting sensation:
Where was Dhanalakshmi born?
Dhanalakshmi belongs to a small village called Gudur in the Tiruchirappalli district of Tamil Nadu.
Family background of Dhanalakshmi
Dhanalakshmi comes from a family which is not-so-sound financially. Athletics for her was just a way of breaking out from the shackles of poverty and secure a safe government job. She lost her father at a very young age. It was her mother who worked hard to provide food and whatever education she could to Dhanalakshmi and her younger two sisters.
Education of Dhanalakshmi
Dhanalakshmi pursued a degree in Arts from the Alva's college in Mangalore. It was here that she started taking keen interest in sports.
Who is Dhanalakshmi's coach?
Dhanalakshmi trains under 31-year-old Manikandan Arumugan. Manikandan is also an active national-level sprinter from Tamil Nadu and came second in men's 100m at the 24th National Federation Cup in Patiala.
When did Dhanalakshmi start athletics?
Dhanalakshmi did not really start sprinting right away. Instead, she first started playing the traditional Indian sport of Kho-Kho in college. As she was not really good at what she was doing, her now the coach – Manikandan asked her to switch to athletics somewhere in 2017.
When did Dhanalakshmi's first major win come?
Dhanalakshmi's first major taste of success came almost a year after she started specialising in sprints when she won a gold medal at the 200m Inter Universities Sports Meet in Mangalore.
Best Athlete of Tamil Nadu — Dhanalakshmi
Dhanalakshmi was named the best athlete in the state during the 92nd Tamil Nadu Senior State Athletic Championships in 2019.
Dhanalakshmi beats Dutee Chand and Hima Das
Dhanalakshmi shot to fame when she defeated two of India's premier sprinters – Dutee Chand and Hima Das in the 100m finals at the 24th National Federation Cup in Patiala. She clocked 11.39 seconds in the final to comfortably beat Chand who came second with 11.59 seconds. Dhanalakshmi had earlier clocked 11.38 seconds in the heats.
Dhanalakshmi beats PT Usha's record
In the aftermath of her 100m win, Dhanalakshmi ran 200m heats in 23.26 seconds to comfortably break the Federation Cup record set by PT Usha when she clocked 23.30 seconds in Federation Cup 1998. Dhanalaksmi beat Hima Das once again who came second with a timing of 24.07 seconds.
What does her future looks like?
Dhanalakshmi certainly missed out on the direct Olympic qualification in 100m for which she had to achieve a time of 11.15 seconds, but she still stands a chance of reaching Tokyo if she clocks 22.80 or less in the 200m finals to be held later today. Even if she fails to do that, it would be simply hard to ignore the timings she has been clocking and not to include her in the 4x100m women's quartet which has already earned a place at Tokyo.