The journey of Hima Das and Dhanalakshmi are so similar yet so different
Both Hima Das and Dhanalakshmi were born to a not so financially sound background, albeit in two different corners of the country.
Hima Das shot to fame back in July 2018, when she was crowned the World U-20 Champion in women's 400m after she clinched a gold in the event during the World U-20 Championships in Finland - three months after her Commonwealth Games debut.
Aged just 18 then, Hima Das became an overnight sensation in India. She was hyped up as the next big sprinting sensation from India as she went on to bag three medals at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta in August.
Just in a span of a couple of months, the girl from Assam went from being an unknown quantity to a household name!
Quite naturally, there were a lot of expectations from Hima Das. Nicknamed 'The Dhing Express', she was expected to be the face of the Indian athletics alongside Neeraj Chopra during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. While Chopra booked his ticket to Tokyo way back in January 2020, Hima Das unable to so.
Instead of Das, the Indian Olympic contingent in Tokyo will have yet another young and talented sprinter who shot to fame overnight with her sensational speed – Dhanalakshmi Sekhar.
The journeys of Hima Das and Dhanalakshmi Sekhar are so similar yet so different.
Both Das and Dhanalakshmi were born to a not so financially sound background, albeit in two different corners of the country. While Das hails from the northeastern state of Assam, Dhanalakshmi comes from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Both of them started off with sports other than athletics – while Das enjoyed football, Dhanalakshmi started with the traditional Indian sport of Kho-Kho. Besides, neither of them kick-started their sporting career with an aim to make it big in the world of sports; their sole ambition was to secure a well-paying job to feed their family.
There is a sense of déjà vu in how the two rose to fame as well.
If Hima Das became an overnight sensation after becoming the U-20 World Champion in women's 400m in 2018, Dhanalakshmi took the Indian sporting fraternity by a storm when she flew past the likes of Dutee Chand and Das herself in the women's 100m final during 24th National Federation Cup in March 2021.
The expectations from the two were also akin – Qualifying for the Olympics. But only Dhanalakshmi made it.
This is where the two starts to differ from each other. While Hima Das started off as a 400m quarter-miler, Dhanalakshmi is considered to be the 100m, 200m sprint specialist.
Recurring back injuries meant that Das had to switch from 400m – an event she has enjoyed most of her success in, to the shorter 100m and 200m sprints - which she ran during her childhood, in January 2020. Though this decision was mainly taken keeping her health in mind by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), it somewhere seems to have backfired as Hima Das failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in women's individual 200m sprints as well as the women's 4x100m relay.
While a lot of factors went against Hima Das during the Olympic qualification period, it was the exact opposite for Dhanalakshmi, with everything working in her favour.
Dhanalakshmi, who started off in the 100m and 200m sprints, on the other hand, has made it to the Tokyo Olympics via the mixed 4x400m relay team. Much like how she surprised the nation with her speed back in March, the 22-year-old yet again sprung a surprise running in the 400m trials.
The girl from Gudur clocked 54.27 seconds to finish third in the trials and made her way into the Indian Olympic contingent.
Hima Das, since her breakthrough performance in 2018, has gone on to become a national superstar. Now, the stage is set, and the onus is firmly on Dhanalakshmi Sekhar to carve her own niche, be it the 100m, 200m, or the 400m.