Sprinter Dutee Chand, who made it to her first Olympics after fighting the odds arising out of a ‘gender test’, finished a disappointing seventh in her 100m heats on the opening day of athletics event here. Dutee, who became the first Indian woman to qualify for the 100m dash in 36 years, clocked 11.69secs, well below her national record timing of 11.24secs to finish seventh in heat number 5 at the Olympic Stadium.
Men’s quarter-miler Muhammad Anas also crashed out at the heats while long jumper Ankit Sharma failed to advance to the final round to pile on the Indian misery. From lane number six, Anas started off the blocks well but could only clock 45.95secs, more than a half a second outside his national record timing of 45.40secs to finish sixth in the field of eight in heat number seventh.
Kerala lad Anas finished 31st overall out of 50 athletes who competed in men’s 400m race. First three in each of the seven heats and the next three fastest qualify for the semifinals. Long jumper Ankit Sharma also produced a below par best effort of 7.67m in his third attempt to finish 12th overall in a field of 30.
Another national record holder Sharma had produced 8.19m in Kazakhstan in June while qualifying for Rio but here he struggled to even come close to his best.
A ‘nervous’ Dutee said, she was done in by the pressure and a long 36-hour ordeal in an economy class flight from home while reaching here had affected her preparation. “I was really scared and nervous. It’s a huge atmosphere. I got really scared and could not give my best. This is a completely different atmosphere, everyone was so taller than me,” Dutee said.
Starting from lane 4, Dutee was quick off the blocks but fell by the wayside once USA’s Tianna Bartoletta and Ewa Swoboda of Poland took the lead midway into the race. Making a sprint debut for Indian women for the first time after PT Usha in Moscow 1980, Dutee once again struggled to accelerate in the last 25 metres to finish seventh in heat five, ahead of bottom placed Patricia Taea of Cook Island.
She said the long flight did not give her an ideal way of preparation and her personal coach’s late arrival only two days before the competition made matters worse. “I was well prepared in Almaty when I clocked 11.24secs as I had reached there well in advance. But here, I was tired after the long 36-hour flight in a crammed economy class seat. I reached here on August 5 evening. I slept for two days, had severe back pain. I could not adjust well. My coach also reached late and I did not get any help here. He did not get the accreditation and faced a lot of trouble,” she said.
“It would have really helped if I competed in an event after achieving the qualifying mark,” she added.
A face of gender equality after winning a landmark case against the IAAF’s policy of hyperandrogenism, Dutee vowed to return stronger at Tokyo 2020. “I know I have disappointed everyone, and could not give a better time, but I promise to return stronger. I’m grateful to everyone for supporting me. It’s because of their best wishes I could come at this level. It’s great to become the only sprinter from Odisha to compete at Olympics,” she said.
“I was very excited. It was my first Olympics so was not aware how to go about it. Hope I will be better prepared next time,” she signed off.
London Games bronze winning shooter Gagan Narang and Chain Singh bowed out of Rifle Prone in the qualification, even as Gurpreet Singh and Mairaj Ahmed Khan finished the stage 1 qualifying of 25m rapid fire pistol and men’s skeet on 10th position. They will continue their participation Saturday.
To add to the woes, the country’s athletes made a disastrous beginning in track and field events with star discus thrower Vikas Gowda buckling under pressure once again to finish a distant 28th with a best throw of 58.99 metres and was eliminated. Later the tale of misery continued with quarter miler Mohammed Anas, half miler Jinson Johnson, the trio of 20km race walkers – Gurmeet Singh, Manish Singh Rawat and Krishnan Ganapathy, long jumper Ankit Sharma and woman sprinter Dutee Chand bowing out without causing a ripple.On saturday, women steeplechasers Lalita Babar and Sudha Singh, along with woman quarter miler Nirmala Sheoran will be striving to advance from preliminaries. The day commenced with Atanu Das letting slip chances in his men’s individual recurve pre-quarterfinal to bow out of contention and draw curtains on India’s fruitless campaign in archery.Taking aim amid heavy rain, Atanu went down 4-6 to World No.8 Lee Seung-Yun, who had already helped South Korea win the team gold at the event, by losing two sets and winning one while the rest two ended in ties.The Indian lost 28-30, 30-28, 27-27, 27-28 28-28 to bring to an end the country’s medal-less campaign.Women archers Laishram Bombayla Devi, Deepika Kumari and Laxmirani Majhi have already bowed out of contention after losing in both the women’s team and individual events. The script was no different in another precision sport, shooting, where seasoned Narang and Chain Singh flopped in the 50m rifle prone event.