India

The 'rebirth' of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand

In this photograph taken on July 7, 2013, women"s 200 meters bronze medal winners from India, Dutee Chand waves to the crowd after the race on the fifth and the final day of the Asian Athletics Championship 2013 at the Chatrapati Shivaji Stadium in Pune. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dutee Chand was the first Indian sprinter to reach a final at a global sprint event in 2013

Indian sprinter Dutee Chand has been cleared to race by a landmark ruling questioning the validity of so-called gender tests around naturally high testosterone levels in female athletes. BBC Hindi's Sandeep Sahu spoke to her and met her family in her native village in the eastern state of Orissa.

Barely hours after Dutee Chand heard the news on Monday that she had been cleared to race again, she began thinking of the Olympic Games in Rio next year.

Chand, 19, has been banned since last summer after failing a hormone test.

"I was completely shattered when I was banned. My performance deteriorated steadily. I was pushed to third position in the national athletics meet in Bangalore," she told the BBC over phone from Hyderabad where she is training.

"But with the ban now lifted, I would do all it takes to reach the Olympic qualifying mark of 11.32 seconds for the 100m event and 23.20 seconds for 200m."

Chand was the first Indian sprinter to reach a final at a global athletics event in 2013. She was the national champion for 100m and 200m, and won a bronze in the Asian Athletics meet.

The star sprinter is desperately waiting for support from the Indian government to train in the US for the 2015 Olympics.

'God is with me'

Chand, who missed the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games during her suspension, was the first athlete to challenge the "hyperandrogenism" regulations, introduced in the wake of the South African 800m sensation Caster Semenya affair in 2009.

She is aware that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) has suspended the International Association of Athletics Federations' "hyperandrogenism" rules for two years - and the ban could be reimposed on her.

"It is what God has given me and I know he is with me," she says.

Back in her village Gopalpur in Orissa, Chand's family is ecstatic.

Image copyright Shivaji Moulik
Image caption Dutee Chand's father is a weaver
Image copyright shivaji moulik
Image caption The Chand family home in Gopalpur, Orissa

"I always believed the ban would be lifted because I knew Dutee was not at fault," says Saraswati, the sprinter's elder sister and a prominent athlete herself.

"Since the ban last year, I have been dreading her phone calls. And it was no different on Monday when Dutee called at around ten in the night. I thought, 'Here comes another bad news.' But the ecstasy in her voice told me this time it was different."

Tough life

For her mother Akhuji Chand, the lifting of the ban is nothing short of a rebirth for her daughter.

"She has endured a lot in the last one year. Barbs have been aimed at her; she has been called all kinds of names. But now the time has come for her to show the world the stuff she is made of," says the proud mother.

Her father Chakradhar Chand is a weaver and finds it tough to support his family of nine, including six daughters. But he has always backed his daughters to pursue their interest in sports.

"Dutee's talent showed while she was in school. I told her if sports is what you want to do, give it your best shot - and she has," he says.

Chand's neighbour Ashok Dutta shows us the places where she used to train in her childhood.

"She would run on river banks, in sand, in mud, in knee-deep water to make her legs strong. And it has all paid off," says Mr Dutta.

Now they are all waiting for Chand to make them proud in Rio.

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