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.”