Well, now it can be told. Indian sprinter Dutee Chand ran 100 metres at the Rio Olympics 2016 with spikes (running shoes) sent from Germany by a Good Samaritan just four days before her event!
So much for the government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) and Sports Authority of India’s trumpeting of providing best facilities to Rio bound athletes.
One week before Dutee’s departure to Brazil, Dutee’s coach N Ramesh was a worried man. He was running around to organise a pair of competition spikes for his trainee. Considering it was raining almost daily in Rio, Ramesh was worried that in case Dutee’s spikes get wet she will have no other pair to run. But all his efforts went waste.
One day before Dutee left for Rio, Ramesh happened to talk to a sports journalist over the phone. Knowing India’s sports authorities so well, the said journalist was not surprised when Ramesh told him that Dutee didn’t have the spikes to run in Rio.
The journalist called up a Bonn-based Indian colleague and a close friend, Anwar Jamal Ashraf. A former Senior Producer with the Deutsche Welle, Anwar gladly offered to send a pair for Dutee. But the problem was how to get them to India in time?
As Dutee’s luck would have it, the son of a friend of the journalist was about to conclude a young leader’s camp in Mainz, near Frankfurt. After buying the shoes next morning Anwar drove about 200km to Frankfurt on way to Mainz to deliver the shoes to the boy, Shawn Milton.
Shawn brought the Asics Tiger shoes just in time for the journalist to carry them to Rio. And finally Dutee could run in them.
A good soul and a keen sports lover, Anwar not only refused to take money but felt happy that he "could do something for Indian sports."
"What is 200 Euro to help an Indian runner?" he said.
The same journalist had experienced a similar situation back in 1998.
Less than a week before the Indian contingent left for Bangkok for the Asian Games, this journalist went to meet PT Usha at Delhi’s Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium. After meeting her at the Stadium’s Residential Wing, he went home and casually mentioned his meeting with Usha to his wife. And when she expressed a desire to meet Usha as well, the two were back at Nehru Stadium. Finding Usha alone in her room, his wife invited Usha for a Malayali food at Kovil, then a well-known joint for South Indian food in Central Delhi.
During polite conversation over dinner Usha dropped a bombshell. She revealed that she had only a torn pair of shoes to run in Bangkok.
The journalist and his wife came home disgusted. He immediately called up Hakikat Rai, a Senior Sports Correspondent with the Straits Times newspaper in Singapore. Hakikat had covered several of Usha’s races in Singapore and Indonesia and the Asian Games in Beijing in 1990. Like Anwar he was more than happy to buy the pair, which he did first thing next morning. And again like Anwar, gladly paid for an expensive Nike pair. "I am too happy to do this for an Indian athlete,’’ he said. But how to send them across to India was a big question.
After several calls to Singapore, through common friends the journalist located an air hostess with Singapore Airlines who was flying to India next evening. Hakikat handed over the shoes to the air hostess. who in turn gave them to him. Unfortunately the journalist had cancel his trip to Bangkok due to bereavement in the family. But an Indian athlete carried the shoes to Bangkok.
The journalist would not have made all this public. But he was forced to when he read a news item in a national daily which said that the Sports Authority of India had given Dutee Rs two lakh to buy the pair.