The world of sports, over the last few days, offered a rather curious juxtaposition of sporting spirits—that of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand and Argentine football great Lionel Messi. The Argentinian team’s crushing loss to Chile in the Sunday night Copa America final prompted Messi to announce his retirement from international football. With a string of records to his name, the forward is widely held to be one of the all-time greats of the sport, perhaps even the best ever. But, despite 113 national team caps and 55 goals scored—Messi displaced striker Gabriel Batistuta as the scorer of the highest number of goals for Argentina just a few days back—the anguish of coming close to victory with national team in a number of championships and then falling short seems to have proved too heavy a burden for him to bear.
Chand, on the other hand, couldn’t have had lesser going for her just two years back when she was dropped from the Indian contingent selected for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games after she was found to have hyperandrogenism—presence of testosterone, a male sex hormone, beyond a certain threshold. With an indefinite ban handed by International Association of Athletics Federation which debars those with hyperandrogenism from competing as females, it should have been the end of her running days. But she tenaciously fought her case at the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Switzerland despite the sparse support she received and won a favourable judgment. Now, by clocking 11.24 seconds in the 100-m finals at the XXVI International Meeting G Kosanov Memorial in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Chand has become the second Indian woman after PT Usha in 1980—when qualification standards had not been introduced—to make it to the Olympics. No mean feat for someone born in a poor weavers’ family in a country that isn’t known for having treated its athletes particularly well.