Chennai: Star sprinter Hima Das is not ruling out a return to 400m, an event that shot her to fame in 2018, and is hoping to make a comeback to the quarter-mile in the now-postponed Asian Games, which is likely to be held next year.
The 22-year-old ‘Dhing Express’ last ran a major 400m race during the Asian Championships in Doha in April 2019. She pulled out of that race midway due to a lower back injury. She later ran two 400m races in low-grade events in the Czech Republic in 2019, but since then, has not featured in the one-lap race. She also missed the World Championships in the later part of 2019 due to a back injury.
Hima, who became the first Indian to win a global track event title by clinching gold in the World Junior Championships in 2018, first suffered the injury during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta where she won an individual 400m silver and gold medals in the 4x400m and mixed 4x400m relays. After returning from the injury lay-off, Hima has been running 100m and 200m. She holds the national record of 50.79 seconds in 400m.
”I have not cut (off) running the 400m. It (recovery from injury) is a long process. During my injury time, I was not able to run 400m because a lot of pressure developed on the right side of my back,” Hima said after winning the 100m gold in the National Inter-Sate Championships here with her personal best time of 10.43s.
”My L4 and L5 (two lowest vertebrae in the lumbar spine) were broken and we’re in a different position. Whenever I run it affects me. Then I did my physiotherapy and ran 30m, 40m, 50m, 100m, and then 200m gradually. Till 300m, I am fine. I ran 300m in Europe sometime earlier.
”You need to pick up speed in the last 100m (of 400m) and when I did that once I had to be taken to the hospital (during a training stint in Poland in 2019),” said the sprinter from Assam.
Asked when she can start running 400m, she said, ”Not at this point, but will surely do it (in near future).
”It may happen at the end of this year, otherwise, I may prepare 400m for the postponed Asian Games because I will get time to prepare (for Asian Games).” Hima had also suffered a hamstring injury during the National Inter-State Championships last year in Patiala. She was forced to pull out of the 100m and 4x100m relay finals due to the injury. She ran in the 200m final but finished fifth to miss out on the Tokyo Olympics. The Asian Games, earlier scheduled to be held in September this year, have been postponed due to an upsurge in COVID-19 cases in the host country China. The Games are likely to be held next year. When asked if 400m coach Galina Bukharina will recommend her to run it, Hima said, ”Galina madam and the federation will take the decision what is to be done for me. I will do whatever the AFI says.
”Galina madam is not only my coach but she is also like my mother. I even told my mother at home in Assam not to get tense thinking about me because I have a mother there (national camp) also.” Hima was earlier training at the NIS Patiala before shifting base temporarily to Thiruvananthapuram. She was part of the Indian team that underwent a training-cum-competition tour in Turkey. The team returned home earlier this month.
Asked about the experience of running 100m in the last few years, Hima said, ”When I started athletics, I was doing 100m and long jump. It was not going together, so I ran 100m and 200m.
”After I was called for national camp (in 2017 after winning 200m gold in National Open in Chennai), I was doing 200m and 400m. Now again, I am doing 100m and 200m. This is a process.
”You need to be strong to be a sprinter and I had coped with injury since 2018 (Asian Games). It was tough to get over my injury and come back to the track. But I learned a lot during this period. Now it is the best point in my life.
”Sachin (Tendulkar) sir said that a sportsperson and injury are like friends. How to face that (injury) and move ahead and give a result is the challenge you have to overcome. His words inspire me.” Hima suffered a COVID-19 infection in October last year. Asked about it, she said, ”I was about to die (laughs). It was a severe and dangerous COVID infection.”