Hours after Hima Das struck gold at the IAAF World U-20 Championships women’s 400 metre race and scripted an unprecedented moment on the track for India, she told The Bridge that hearing the national anthem being played in her honour in a foreign country is a new kind of happiness for her.
“(Becoming world champion) is a very happy moment. My thanks go out to all my coaches and all those in India who showed belief in me. I was however not expecting the kind of emotion that would strike me when I was standing on the podium and the national anthem started playing,“ said Hima, the first world junior track champion from India.
In less than two years, Hima has springboarded from absolute obscurity to being the nation’s darling and a feared name across the world, but she said nothing has changed in terms of her attitude or planning before races.
“I felt more eyes were on me than the last time I raced at the U-20 World Championships, but my feelings were the same. At both races, I just knew I had to prove a point,” said Hima.
The point has changed though. In fact, when Hima had burst onto the scene at the same event as a 17-year-old last year, coming up from the rear at the very end to finish 5th in the 200m race, she had never competed in the discipline she has now made her own. Her first competetive 400 m race was in March this year, less than four months ago.
Hima lets others think they’ll win: Coach
Nipon Das, the coach who Hima has credited as the one who orchestrated her shift from the 100m and 200m disciplines to the quartermile one, said from Guwahati, “What we realized over the last year was that the international competition in the shorter distances is too difficult. As for Hima, she is always up for any challenge thrown at her. When we told her we would like her to try the 400m (earlier this year), all she said was, ‘What time should I target?”
“I was in a lot of tension during the final. Hima lets the other girls race ahead and then just when people start thinking she is out of it, she will surge ahead from the back. She has always done this. For me, this approach – letting others think they’re winning, then playing her cards in the final moment – is what sums up Hima,” said the elated coach.
Hima was in the middle of the field till about the last 80 metres of her race on Thursday, after which she suddenly seemed to take on superhuman speed, putting tremendous pressure on those in front of her, finally sailing into the finish line in 51.46 seconds, with comfortable room between her and the rest. The performance might have been a tour-de-force experience for those watching Hima for the first time, but the sprinter herself said her fans should be used to it by now.
“I did not prepare any special strategy for this race. This is the plan I’ve always followed — to keep my best for the end,” said Hima.
Referring to the mind-boggling progress she had made in the last few months in the 400m discipline, Hima said, “I have only one fear in life, and that is my timing not being in my control.”