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PROFILE Battle-hardened Indian sprinter Dutee Chand ready to run her dream By Sunrita Sen, dpa

Europe
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New Delhi (dpa) - There was a point two years ago when Indian sprinter Dutee Chand saw only darkness ahead. It seemed to be the end of the road to a career just blossoming.

The 20-year-old Chand won 200m gold at the Asian Junior Athletics Championships in 2014 and was preparing for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games when the Indian Athletics Federation conducted tests on her and said she was ineligible to compete.

The tests showed Chand had a condition called hyperandrogenism. She had higher levels of testosterone than were permissible under International Association of Athletics Federations (IAFF) guidelines for her to compete as a female athlete.

Today, Chand is getting ready to compete in the women‘s 100m at the Rio Olympics. She will be the second Indian woman to do so, after a gap of 36 years.

How Dutee Chand clawed her way back from a point when her promising career looked ready to end is just another chapter in a remarkable story of struggle against adversities.

Born to a family of weavers in a non-descript village in eastern Orissa state, one of India‘s poorest regions, childhood for Chand was a struggle for survival and becoming an athlete seemed a distant dream.

"My parents used to struggle to put food on our plates . I didn‘t have shoes, so I was forced to run barefoot," she said in a recent interview to the Times of India newspaper. "I didn‘t have the right clothes to train with."

But her family backed her dream as far as they could, specifically her elder sister Saraswati Chand, who started working at an early age and supported her promising young sister emotionally and financially.

Dutee Chand said she wanted to be a runner for as far back as she could remember. She would sprint across the village when she was 4.

"After they banned me, I was heartbroken. I wanted to die. My sister said this is a test, an exam to see how determined you are and she told me I had to fight and I did," Chand said in an interview with Zee Television channel.

For months, young Chand was under intense scrutiny with the media examining all aspects of her femininity.

"If I had naturally high levels of what was seen as a male hormone, was that my fault?" Chand asked.

She was not allowed to compete in the Commonwealth or Asian Games, but she appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which in a landmark verdict on July 25, 2015 ruled her suspension was discriminatory and suspended the regulation on hyperandrogenism.

Chand is being seen as a pioneer along with South Africa‘s Caster Semenya, a favourite to win the 800m gold at Rio, in challenging the hyperandrogenism rule.

Despite a year of being out of competitions, Chand had never stopped training like she never stopped believing she would be back on the tracks except for a few despairing days.

She clocked a new national record of 11.24 seconds at the Kosanov memorial athletics meet in Almaty, Khazakstan in June, winning a berth at the Rio Olympic Games. And there she is, ready for another battle, the sort she prefers.

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