Sprinter Dutee Chand became the first Indian ever to win gold in the 100m race at a global meet when she finished first in the event at the World Universiade in Napoli on Wednesday.

Soon after her historic win, Dutee Chand tweeted: “Pull me down, I will come back stronger!” The tweet was Dutee’s way of answering her critics, who have time and again raised doubts over her gender and questioned her personal choices.

“That message was for my family, my elder sister Saraswati and mother Akhuji, who are against my same-sex relationship,” Dutee later told TOI from the southern Italian city.

“The gold medal is my reply to them and to all my critics that I can manage both my personal life with my chosen partner and the athletics career. I don’t need their advice. I am mature enough to make my own decisions. This medal should silence all who have been talking rubbish about me, my existence and my choice of soulmate,” she said.

In Napoli, the 23-year-old from Odisha’s Chaka Gopalpur village clocked 11.32 seconds to win the gold, leading the race from start to finish. She was the first to get off the blocks in the eight-woman final and thwarted a late challenge from Switzerland’s Del Ponte (11.33s) to finish on top. Lisa KwaYie of Germany took the bronze in 11.39s.

The Universiade is an international multi-sport event organised for university athletes by the International University Sports Federation.

“Ever since I revealed my same-sex relationship, people are writing bad things about me on my Facebook page and on social media. They have been saying my career is finished, I would no longer be able to concentrate on the Tokyo Olympics as I have made a bad choice in my life. My elder sister has polluted the mind of my mother and other family members, and they have been spreading all kind of lies about me. But look, today I have won a gold, that too a historic one. It’s all because I have made the right decisions in my career,” she said.

The national record holder at 11.24s is only the second Indian sprinter to win a gold at a global event after Assam’s Hima Das, who had clinched the top spot in 400m in the World Junior Athletics Championships last year. But while Hima’s success came at a junior meet and Dutee competed in a senior-level competition.

Dutee, who had a silver each in 100m and 200m at the 2018 Jakarta Asiad, is also only the second Indian track and field athlete to win a gold in the World Universiade. Shot putter Inderjeet Singh had won gold in his event in the 2015 edition.

Dutee said the win at the Universiade liberated her from years of pain and agony as an athlete, after her dream of representing the country at the 2014 Commonwealth and Asian Games was nipped in the bud by the international athletics body’s (IAAF) draconian hyperandrogenism policy. Dutee had to fight her case in the court of arbitration (CAS) in Lausanne to prove to the athletics world that she didn’t compete with higher levels of testosterone and that the ban on her should be lifted, which eventually happened.

“The last few years have been quite painful for me, where my existence as a normal human being was questioned time and again. When I overcame that difficulty, people made a hue and cry about my same-sex relationship. I want to tell the world that I am in a happy space and I know that none would be happier than my partner back in Odisha. Ever since she has come in my life, I have been winning medals all around. She had prayed for my win and her wish has been fulfilled,” Dutee said.

Dutee added that her timings had improved because she had started focusing on her speed in the first 30m of her sprint and not reducing it till the finish line. “Earlier, I used to put a lot of effort and energy in heats and semifinals, now I look to save my energy for the final race.”

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