The nation’s fastest female sprinter, Dutee Chand’s journey to putting the country on the map has not been easy. As the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the World University Games, this 23-year-old bravely challenged social norms, took on the Athletics Federation of India’s rules (on hyperandrogenism) and emerged victorious. We recently caught up with her to talk about her training schedule and her first brand association with PUMA. The petite national champion seemed calm and focused and had no qualms about her decisions.
ELLE: Tell us about your partnership with PUMA.
Dutee Chand: It gives me great happiness that a global brand that makes great athletic gear and supports all sports signed me on.
ELLE: What’s it like to be known as the country’s fastest woman?
DC: I feel very happy being the country’s number one (female) sprinter since the last five years. I recently set India’s best time in 100mts at 11.24 seconds. I have worked very hard to get here, and now I am breaking my own records.
ELLE: What’s your advice to the young girls who want to take up sports?
DC: If you work hard, you’ll soon succeed in making yourself and the country proud. Now, there are lots of schemes that support athletes and some government-backed ones like Khelo India and Target Olympic Podium Scheme even offer free housing and food.
ELLE: Who do you look up to?
DC: Usain Bolt. Ever since I was a child, I’ve dreamed of being world fastest sprinter, just like him.
ELLE: You’re being hailed as ‘India’s first athlete to acknowledge being in a same-sex relationship’. Was it tough to come out and make this announcement?
DC: When it comes to being open about my sexuality, I know I’m not doing anything wrong. Whatever I choose to do in my life is for me, and my work is for my country—this is the thought that keeps me going. The first few days after I came out were the toughest. I read everything [in the press] because I wanted to know what was being said about me.
In the beginning people said negative things, but I kept telling myself that this will only last for a few more days. And soon the support started pouring in. Now, it feels good to no longer live in fear, even my training going well–everything is great.
ELLE: What’s a regular training day like?
DC: I train for six hours every day, this includes swimming, going to the gym and a combination of back and core exercises for an overall workout.
Grayscale Photograph: Nishat Fatima