Sabyasachi Patra

Dutee Chand – On and Off the Field

Dutee Chand – On and Off the Field

Face the Challenges:

While shooting for a documentary on Dutte Chand, an athlete from Odisha, I had the chance to observe her closely and understand her story. Dutee comes from a very poor weaver family. She told me that she started running so that she can get good food. Winning brought in the much needed food as well as money. She started liking the feel of winning. Then she felt that she can become a reputed person in the society if she continues to work hard on her running. The name, fame and glory made her toil harder and harder.

Dutee Chand ready for race in Barabati Stadium Cuttack

In 2014, it was found that Dutee has a case of hyperandrogenism which results in her body naturally producing higher testosterone level than other woman. The International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) has a prescribed limit for women and men. So immediately she was banned. Since the laymen cannot understand this there were doubts raised about her being a woman. In the past such accusations have resulted in athletes attempting suicide. Doctors told her that if she wants to compete then she has to do surgery to lower the testosterone produced by her body.

In the past many female athletes have done that surgery. However, Dutee in her simplistic belief said no to surgery. She said “I am a woman. This body is God given and I don’t want to make any changes to it”. Here is a woman who comes from a poor family. Her parents still do weaving. Together with her elder sister who has a job in police, she has constructed a concrete house. All she knew in life since her childhood days is running and this cruel fate was taking it away from her. Still she decided to challenge this ban. Fighting a case in CAS (Court of Arbitration Switzerland) is not easy. Nevertheless she fought and finally she won. CAS decided that the IAAF has to do more studies to find out concrete proof that higher levels of naturally occurring testosterone can give rise to higher performance.

Morale of the story: Never, Never, Never ever give up. Face the challenge. Don’t think that no one else has done it before so it can’t be done. Do it and set a precedent.

While shooting the documentary I found that she trains in the morning by running in the Brahmani river sand. In the night, I wanted to see the river bank and there she told me that she crosses the river to run in the other bank. I was really surprised and asked why she rows the boat to cross over to the other side of the river. She told me that the entire 6000 plus population of the village come to the river bank to defecate. So she had to cross the river to run.

Dutee Chand rows a boat to cross the brahmani river in the morning to run on the sands in the opposite bank.

Dutee Chand rows a boat to cross the brahmani river in the morning to run on the sands in the opposite bank.

Adversity is a good teacher. During her childhood days she got enough endurance and strength and muscle development by rowing boat and running on the sand. So if you don’t have the latest gym, then you can always find another way out.

Till recently her family used to stay in a thatch house. Dutee and her elder sister Saraswati managed to build a puckka cemented house. Her parents still continue to weave. Weaving is painstaking work. If one doesn’t have immense patience, then there are bound to be mistakes and the patterns will be flawed. Perhaps Dutte got the patience to fight against adversity watching her parents.

Dutee told me that she came to know about proper food when she went to the SAI hostels. During her childhood often she had to eat a handful of mudhi (puffed rice) and tea as breakfast. Not many of you would have faced such adversity. Some wilt under adversity and a few shine.

The hyperandrogenism controversy was a difficult period for her. Doubts about her feminism would have come as a shock to a girl at the tender age of 18. I found Dutee to be as eager to dress up like any other teenaged girl.

Before packing up, I couldn’t resist advising her. After all, if someone is less than half of your age and has faced so much adversity which many people won’t face in their entire lifetime, and has the ability to bring laurels for your country, it is natural to mean well and dish out advice. I reminded her that one needs to put on 10,000 hours to succeed. And that 10,000 hours need to be put on now and not in 10 years. I knew she had a burning desire to succeed and will definitely push herself to the limits.

Happy to know that Dutee Chand has qualified for the Olympics. Here is a short behind the scenes video showing a not often seen side of Dutee. Am happy that in this one and half years since this was shot, Dutee Chand has qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Run Dutee Run! The prayers of a billion Indians are for you.


Sabyasachi Patra
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