Star Indian sprinter Dutee Chand finished seventh in her Heat of the Women's 200m. She took 23.85 seconds to get past the finishing tape at the other end of the race. Christine Mboma of Niger overtook America's Gabrielle Thomas at the last stage to win the Heat with a time of 22.11s. Mboma also set a national as well as a World U20 record.
With a disappointing sprint where she did not even come close to her personal best (23.00), Dutee crashed out of the event in the very first round. But could she have progressed till the semis? Was there any chance to begin with?
Dutee failed to meet her personal best
In Jakarta in 2018, Dutee Chand set her personal best in Women's 200m with a 23.00 sprint. This was just short of the National Record of 22.82s set by Saraswati Saha in 2002. Dutee was miles off her best version at the Heats today.
The cruel irony is that, had she run a 22.00s race today or even come close to that, she would've easily qualified for the semi-final even without finishing among the top three in her Heats. Besides the top three athletes in every Heat, the next three fastest also go through and Dutee could've been one of them.
The next three fastest qualifying today had times of 23.14s and 23.16s (twice). This number is certainly not beyond Dutee's capability, who had won silver at the 2018 Asian Games with a time of 23.20.
Indian athletes continue to falter
At a stage as big and grand as the Olympics, every athlete tries to compete with the best version of their own selves since what their opponents do isn't in their hands. With the exception of Avinash Sable, who bettered his own personal best and national record, but was unfortunate to miss out on qualification because of the existing Heat rules and Kamalpreet Kaur who was only the second woman to hit the qualification mark in Discus throw, everyone else has disappointed.
Meeting and improving on the personal best is not an out-of-place expectation for any athlete competing at this level, and not certainly for a champion of Dutee Chand's caliber. Had she been able to do that today, she would've made her way to the semis. But for now, it's a learning lesson.