The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Friday got it all wrong when it referred to Hima Das' "not so fluent english" after her historic run at the world under-20 championships, attracting the anger of fans which forced the governing body to issue an apology in chaste Hindi.
The daughter of a farmer from a village in Assam's Nagaon district, Hima scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman to win a gold at the IAFF World U-20 Athletics Championships, finishing first in the women's 400 metre final race in Tampere, Finland.
"#HimaDas speking to media after her SF win at #iaaftampere2018 @iaaforg Not so fluent in English but she gave her best there too. So proud of u #HimaDas Keep rocking & yeah,try ur best in final!" the AFI wrote on its twitter handle.
#HimaDas speking to media after her SF win at #iaaftampere2018 @iaaforg Not so fluent in English but she gave her best there too. So proud of u #HimaDas Keep rocking & yeah,try ur best in final! @ioaindia @IndianOlympians @TejaswinShankar @PTI_News @StarSportsIndia @hotstartweets pic.twitter.com/N3PdEamJen— Athletics Federation of India (@afiindia) July 12, 2018
Fans expressed their displeasure agaisnt the AFI for using what could be interpreted as insensitive.
Miffed, fans ridiculed the tweet and said Das was in Finland to showcase her talent in athletics and not her expertise in english language.
"She has landed in Tampere for displaying her talent in track and not in English. Shame on you for what you said," read one tweet.
"She has not been featured by the IAAF for her English speaking skills,we have lot of good English speakers in India but very few who can run like her," said another.
The severe backlash was followed by a clarification by the AFI.
"We apologise to the country if our tweet hurt sentiments. We merely wanted to show that Hima is fearless whether on the track or outside. Despite being from a small village, she spoke freely with the foreign media. We apologise again to those who were offended," translated a tweet which was posted in Hindi by the AFI.
सभी भारतवासियों से क्षमा अगर हमारी एक TWEET से आप आहत हुए है!असल उद्देश्य यह दर्शाना था कि हमारी धाविका किसी भी कठनाई से नहीं घबराती, मैदान के अंदर या बाहर! छोटे से गाँव से आने के बावजूद, विदेश में अंग्रेजी पत्रकार से बेझिझक बात की! एक बार फिर उनसे क्षमा जो नाराज हैं, जय हिन्द!— Athletics Federation of India (@afiindia) July 13, 2018
The 18-year-old Das finished the race in just 51.46s to win the gold.
She now joins star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who won a gold in Poland in the last edition in 2016 in a world record effort.
Das is the first Indian track athlete to have won a medal in the history of this competition.
#HimaDas gives #India the most awaited Medal in country's athletics history with an inspiring performance at U20 World Championships #iaaftampere2018 in #Finland #India Celebrates,Congrats Girl!@sebcoe @iaaforg @Adille1 @Ra_THORe @IndiaSports @Media_SAI @NeelamKapur @Onkarkedia pic.twitter.com/rPBrCsGyy4— Athletics Federation of India (@afiindia) July 12, 2018
The previous medal winners at the World Junior Championships were Seema Punia (bronze in discus in 2002) and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (bronze in discus in 2014).