Dutee Chand, reinstated Indian sprinter, eyes Olympic final

Dutee Chand
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NEW DELHI (AP) — Dutee Chand made the time just in time.

Less than six weeks before the Rio de Janeiro Games, Chand became the first female Indian sprinter in 36 years to qualify for the Olympics.

She ran the 100m at an international meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 11.24 seconds, well under the Olympic qualifying standard of 11.32.

She was the silver medalist in the race, a year after the Court of Arbitration for Sport issued a landmark ruling that challenged her suspension for hyperandrogenism, a condition which produces higher than normal testosterone levels in women.

“It has been a tough year for me. My hard work and that of my coach has paid off,” a relieved Chand said in Almaty after winning her heat.

Chand was suspended two years ago by the IAAF because of hyperandrogenism. But with the support of a group of lawyers and sports enthusiasts, Chand appealed to the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, saying her suspension was discriminatory and against the spirit of sport.

Last year, sport’s highest court decided in her favor, ordering the IAAF to suspend the regulations for two years to allow athletics’ global body to gather evidence as to whether hyperandrogenism offers a performance advantage.

Chand will be only the second female Indian sprinter to run in the Olympics. P.T. Usha competed in the 100 and 200 at the 1980 Moscow Games, but Chand will be the first since qualification standards were introduced at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

For Chand, it has been a long hard journey to Rio.

The daughter of poor weavers in the eastern state of Orissa, she fought poverty before her athletic talent was noticed by state sports authorities.

At 18, Chand had just returned from winning two gold medals at the Asian junior championships and was looking forward to representing India at the world junior championships and the Commonwealth Games in Scotland when she was dropped from the team because of the excessive but naturally occurring testosterone.

After CAS’ ruling last July, she and her coach Nagapuri Ramesh moved to the southern city of Hyderabad to begin a punishing regime to qualify for Rio.

“Dutee has great resilience. For her to continue performing while under so much pressure and so much scrutiny, is remarkable,” says Payoshni Mitra, Chand’s government-appointed adviser, who lobbied for Chand’s reinstatement to competition.

Her case was similar to that of South African 800-meter runner Caster Semenya, who was sidelined from competition for almost a year after winning the 2009 world championship at age 18. Semenya was eventually cleared by the IAAF, and won a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics. She will be in Rio, too.

At Almaty on Saturday, local Viktoriya Zyabkina won the 100 in 11.15, and Chand trailed in a relieving 11.244.

“There was pressure to qualify for the Olympics and I was tense but now, as I have qualified, my dream has come true,” Chand was quoted as saying in The Indian Express newspaper. “I now hope to enter the final at the Olympic Games.”

MORE: Semenya does not plan on Olympic 400m

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”