“I am living a dream”, said Hima Das as she was seen speaking about her remarkable journey from being a stubborn footballer in a nondescript Assam village and to becoming the first Indian woman turn to be the world champion in athletics.

The daughter of farmer parents at Kandhulimari village at Nagaon district, The 18-year-old Das, has become hotcake of the country, post she won a gold at the IAAF World U-20 Athletics Championships and in Finland on Thursday, she created history.

Hima Das turns to be the first Indian — male or female — to have won a gold in a track event at the world level. She joined Neeraj Chopra, he is known for winning a gold in the javelin — a field event — in the IAAF World U-20 Championships in the last edition in 2016 in Poland.

Her father Ronjit Das has a 2 bigha (0.4 acres) plot of land and her mother Junali is a homemaker. The small piece of land was the only source of income for the Hima Das’s family consists of the 6 people.

Hima Das

“I know my family’s condition and how we struggled. But the Almighty has something for everybody. I am a positive person and I want to look ahead in life and do something for my parents and for the country,” Das told PTI from Tampere in Finland today.

“But it has been like a dream so far. I am now a world junior champion,” she added.

Das is the eldest of four siblings. She has three younger sisters and a younger brother. One younger sister is studying in the STD 10 whiles the twins — a boy and a girl — are in class III. Hima herself is in class XII at a college in Dhing, which is just one and a half kilometres from her village.

“She is very stubborn if she wants to do something she will not listen to anybody but she will do it with aplomb. She is a strong girl and that is why she is coming up to achieve something. I hope she will do something for the country,” her father Ronjit said from his village in Assam.

“Physically also, she is very strong. She can kick a football like any of us. I told her not to play football with the boys but she did not listen to us,” her cousin Joy Das said.

It is a tough life for her parents and her family which depends on this meager income but at this moment, the family is busy celebrating.

“…we are happy that she chose sports and she is doing well. Our dream is for Hima to win medals in the Asian Games and Olympic Games. Since this morning, the whole village is celebrating her gold medal. A lot of our relatives have dropped into our place and we are distributing sweets.” Das, though, is not thinking too far ahead, we just want success for Hima Das.

“I don’t go out on the track thinking that I will win a medal. What I think is about running faster and faster and I believe that will translate into medals,” she said.

“I don’t have any target as of now like I will win a medal in Asian Games or Olympics. I am just happy that I am doing something, bringing laurels to the country.” Das’ rise has been nothing short of meteoric. One of her village school teachers saw her pace when she was playing football on a muddy field in her own village.

He told her to take up athletics. Soon, the teenager was spotted by Nipon Das, an athletics coach with the Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare during an inter-district meet late in 2016.

Nipon asked her to shift to Guwahati, 150 km from her village and convinced the youngster that she can have a bright career in athletics. Her parents were initially reluctant but eventually allowed them to move to Guwati.

Das trained at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium at the Sarusajai Sports Complex, Guwahati. after that, she won gold in the 400m race of the Federation Cup in Patiala in March in order to qualify for the Commonwealth Games.

Hima Das finished sixth in the Commonwealth Games’ 400m finals and then lowered the Indian U-20 record in 400m to 51.13 seconds whereas winning gold in the recent National Inter-State Championships in Guwahati in order to qualify for the next Asian Games in Indonesia.

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