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Dutee Chand's life back on track after coming out of closet

After a few stressful weeks, India's athletics star is smiling a lot more nowadays.

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Dutee Chand's life back on track after coming out of closet
Dutee Chand (2R), India football captain Aditi Chauhan (L) and actor Siddhant Chaturvedi (R) launch Skechers shoes in Mumbai on Friday
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Dutee Chand couldn't stop grinning while sharing the stage with actor Siddhant Chaturvedi, who played the popular character of MC Sher in Gully Boy, and Aditi Chauhan, captain of the Indian women's football team, for an event here on Friday.

After a few stressful weeks, India's athletics star is smiling a lot more nowadays.

"I went to shoot for The Kapil Sharma Show some days ago, and it felt good. There was a lot of tension before in my life, which reduced after going there. Comedy karne ka mauka mila (got a chance to laugh). I felt happy," Dutee says on the sidelines of the event.

The sprinter has had to deal with challenging times since last month, when she became the country's first sportsperson to reveal that she is in a same-sex relationship. While her family was miffed, her elder sister threatened to not only kick her out from the family but also send her to jail.

She admits it was a difficult decision to come out in public about her relationship with a women from her village, especially in a country where same-sex relationship was decriminalised by the Supreme Court only last year.

But the outpouring of support for her from various people in and outside social media has convinced Dutee that her call was the right one.

"I didn't expect the amount of support that I got," she says. "I felt from within that people might speak ill of me after I spoke about it, because I'm an athletic celebrity, and maybe it will affect my game again like in 2014 (Dutee was banned by Athletics Federation of India for high levels of testosterone).

"But by God's grace, there's been no such thing. AFI, SAI (Sports Authority of India), everyone has supported it, saying it is your personal life and no action will be taken due to it," she adds.

The 23-year-old trailblazer from Odisha is also confident that the negativity from her family will get diluted as time passes by.

"Whether it's Odisha or the world, people don't follow rules, people follow traditions. People are orthodox in their thinking, so it becomes a challenge to make them understand.

"First time when this issue happened, people in Odisha spoke very badly of me. But slowly when they started reading positive things on newspaper and TV, people began understanding," she says.

And for those who still choose to judge her for being in a same-sex relationship, it only makes her more determined to keep excelling as an athlete.

"When someone speaks ill of me, I feel a sense of anger from inside. But that's also how I become strong. The more the people speak bad about me, the more I focus on my training," she says.

Setbacks are hurdles that Dutee is all too familiar with, be it in 2014 when she was banned or last month. But like four years ago when she became the first person to win a case against the international athletics body IAAF for its rule on hyperandrogenism, India's fastest sprinter is getting her career as well as life back on track, literally and figuratively.

"My training was disturbed a lot initially. People know how much stress my sister gave me. I couldn't train properly at least for 10-15 days after that. But now, I'm starting to forget everything and I'm getting back to my training. I've received a lot of support from the public and it has made me feel comfortable," she says.

The 100m and 200m silver medallist from the 2018 Asian Games might have broken the glass ceiling and set the trend for others to open up about their sexual preferences, but she doesn't want people to blindly follow her or the path that she took.

"That's my personal life, I can't guarantee if people want to follow that or not. Not everyone thinks alike in this world," she says.

DUTEE SPEAKS

On Caster Semenya saying she will not take testosterone-lowering drugs

I absolutely agree with her. What is natural, we should stick to it and play with it. We play for the country, we don't run a personal business that we will take drugs and play. God will support us if we play honestly.

On still being excluded from government's Target Olympic Podium Scheme

I appealed 2-3 times but they haven't done anything so far. I had appealed to (previous sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh) Rathore sir, and he said he will do it this time. But now the minister has changed, so I'll have to approach him again. Everyone keeps telling we'll do it but it hasn't happened so far. Our government's train runs very slow.

On entering into politics after her running career is over

Politics is something that was in my mind since I was a child. My family memebers were made sarpanch (head of the village) 2-3 times in my village, including my mother. So, it's a dream but let's see. If people continue to support and love me, then I will get a chance to work for the society.

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