Das is the first Indian track athlete to have won a medal in the history of this competition Image: IAFF
18-year-old sprinter Hima Das, on Thursday, made India proud after becoming the first Indian woman athlete to win a gold medal at the world level as she clinched the top spot in the women's 400m final race in the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships being held in Tampere, Finland. She is also the first Indian — men or women — to have won a gold in a track event at the world level.
Das, a pre-tournament favourite, clocked 51.46 seconds to win the gold, which triggered a wild celebration at the Indian camp. But this was not her personal best as she had clocked 51.13 last month in Guwahati at the National Inter-State Championships.
No woman before Das has won a gold medal in a World Championship at any level, be it youth, junior or senior.
Running in lane number 4, Das was behind Romania's Andrea Miklos at the final bend but produced a stunning burst during the final stretch to cross the finishing line well ahead of the field. She produced her trademark burst at the final 50m.
Miklos took the silver in 52.07 while Taylor Manson of USA was third in 52.28.
"I am very happy to win the gold in the World Junior Championships. I want to thank all the Indians back home and also those who were here cheering me. It was very encouraging to have this kind of support," Hima said after the race.
Das, from Dhing village in Assam's Nagaon district, now joins the illustrious company of star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who won a gold in Poland in the last edition in 2016 in a world-record effort.
In fact, Das is the first Indian track athlete to have won a medal in the history of this competition. The other medal winners are — Seema Punia (bronze in discus in 2002) and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (bronze in discus in 2014).
Das was the favourite to win gold as she is the U-20 season leader in this quarter-mile event. Her rise has been nothing less than meteoric as she took up serious running only last year.
Das had earlier clocked an Indian U-20 record of 51.32 seconds to finish sixth in the Commonwealth Games 400m final in Gold Coast in April.
Since then, she has gone onto improving her timings. She lowered the Indian U-20 record in 400m to 51.13 seconds while winning gold in the recent National Inter-State Championships in Guwahati.
The youngster's grand feat drew admiration from the entire nation, including PM Narendra Modi, union sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri and others.
(With inputs from PTI)