Sprinting ahead, athlete Dutee Chand’s professional and personal achievements make any Indian proud. In 2019, she became the first woman Indian sprinter, clocking 11.32 seconds, to win gold in the 100m race at the Universiad. In the same year, she also became the first-ever Indian athlete to openly come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and of being in a same-sex relationship.
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The twenty-four-year-old has her share of ups and downs, depute being the first woman to represent India in the Olympics sprint event in 36 years. In an interview with IANSlife, the PUMA athlete and brand ambassador talks about her achievements and in celebration of Pride Month, discusses being India’s first openly gay athlete.
Sisters before misters, do you agree, and why?
Dutee Chand: I truly believe that ‘Empowered Women, Empower women.’ The support I received from them during my coming out journey gave me confidence. It gives me great happiness that PUMA is continuing to change the narrative in a progressive and positive way for women around the world. I broke many shackles to get to where I am. It helped me accept myself and urged me to come forward and make my own rules by being a ‘Propah Lady’.
How difficult is to be in a same-sex relationship, do you think times have changed, and India is more accepting?
Dutee Chand: Not anymore. I am sure my achievements have made things easier for me, but I also feel that people in our country have a greater acceptance level now and appreciate honesty. I am glad that brands like the one I represent have come out in the support of the community. My association with PUMA reinforces my belief that people do understand that there is more to me as an athlete.
You’ve been in the limelight whether it was your profession or your personal life. Do you think that this is a good thing and does it work in your favor or against you?
Dutee Chand: I’m glad to know that my story can be an inspiration for millions of women in the country. I have tried to live life on my own terms. I’m nobody to give advice to others. All I can say is that you have one life and live it the way it makes you happy.
What does ‘self-love’ mean you and what are its benefits?
Dutee Chand: For me, self-love is being strong, bold, and fearless. I believe in hard work and I will always keep giving it my all and driving myself to perform my best in all the competitions for my country.
Do you think people need to be more aware of the prejudice and the difficulties people of the LGBTQ+ community face?
Dutee Chand: I think we should not judge people and accept them as they are. We need to take pride in our diversity and that is what we should practice. Through my association with PUMA, I want to set an example for the younger generations that your personal choices don’t and shouldn’t exclude you from playing sports, being an athlete, or achieving your dreams.
Coronavirus has created an unprecedented crisis, how does an athlete like yourself deal with being in lockdown and have you had access to regular training?
Dutee Chand: Like all responsible citizens of this country, I too was observing the lockdown. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help people in my village in whatever little way I could. It was so humbling and reassuring to receive blessings from the elderly in my village with so much love and affection. It was very satisfying that I could do something for the society and the village where I grew up. Where I stay, there is a track inside the campus, so I’m using that to train at the moment. (IANS)