Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, who is set to compete in the ongoing Khelo India University Games, will serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Indian athletes, believes Indian hockey legend Dhanraj Pillay.
Dutee Chand is the current national champion in the women's 100 metres and just the third Indian woman to ever qualify for the 100 metres event at the Olympics.
She will be headlining the Khelo India University Games in Bhubaneswar by representing the KIIT university, participating in the event to warm up for the 2020 Olympics, for which she has been preparing to qualify.
Dutee Chand’s presence a major attraction
“Sprinter Dutee Chand, a former World University Games winner, is an example of the heights Indian youth can achieve. The athletics event at University Games will be keenly watched due to her presence as a competitor,” Dhanraj Pillay said.
Khelo India University Games is a platform for several aspiring athletes from across the nation to excel and showcase their talent through their respective universities.
Silver medallist at the Asian Games, Dutee Chand broke her own national record with a time of 11.22 seconds in the 100 metres category at the 59th National Open Athletics Championships.
That said, her time still isn’t good enough to secure a berth for Tokyo since the women's 100 metres cut-off time for the 2020 Olympics is 11.15 seconds, meaning she will have to shave 0.07 seconds off her best time to still qualify.
Dhanraj Pillay, who led the Indian hockey team to the Asian Games and Asia Cup trophies as captain in 1998 and 2003 respectively, also hopes that the Games help unearth fresh faces in Indian sport.
“Having seen natural talent in many regions during my competitive Indian days and during travelling to take part in tournaments, I hope new faces will emerge,” he said.
Khelo India University Games can be India’s NCAA
The Padma Shri recipient then went to point at Collegiate sports in the United States as an example of how such events can aid the development of athletes.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has played a major role in developing many American athletes across several disciplines in the past.
“Collegiate sports in the United States is rated as highly competitive, attracting young talent from across the world on scholarships,” the 51-year-old Dhanraj Pillay pointed out.
“The NCAA, as it is better known, offers infrastructure, training and opportunity in select colleges to the teenagers across sports, many of whom graduate into exceptional performers,” he added.
Indian tennis star Somdev Devvarman is one such example, having graduated from the National Collegiate Athletic Association. An achiever in the NCAA, Somdev Devvarman has since gone on to represent India in the Davis Cup squad.
Similarly, if Khelo India University Games’ objectives are indeed realized in a few years then a plethora of up and coming talents should be ready to represent India in the future.