Dutee Chand has more than won the inaugural ESPN India Courage Award; her life and how she has lived it, became, in fact, the catalyst for the institution of this award itself.
The Courage Award is meant to acknowledge the athlete who transcends their sport and lives life beyond medals and records. It cannot be an annual citation for sporting excellence because such champions are rare. Their lives resonate with meaning and significance beyond athletic achievement and extend our understanding of the world.
Dutee Chand is such an athlete: starting 2014, she fought for her right to race by taking on the IAAF's discriminatory hypoandrogenism regulations and challenging the world athletics body, compelling them to re-examine and rewrite their rules. Her athletics career was to gather strength, with Dutee qualifying for the 100m at the Rio Olympics, only the third Indian woman to make it into the iconic event in its 88-year-history. In 2018, she won two sprint silvers at the Asian Games, her first major medals after winning her hypoandrogenism case at at the CAS. In May 2019, she broke through another boundary, coming out as India's first openly gay athlete, stepping forward by saying she had been in a same-sex relationship for several years.
Living in a country where conservatism continues to attempt to pummel progressiveness into submission, and working in a sporting ecosystem where officialdom treats its competitors as feudal underlings, a woman from Odisha once again, challenged and overturned the rules of her game. "It is our life and we have the right to live it the way we see right. Everyone should have the freedom to love."
Rarely do India's sportspeople use their position as anything other than commercial platforms. Dutee becomes a natural winner of the inaugural Courage Award in recognition of her fearlessness in always taking a stand for her individual freedoms - as an athlete, as a woman - and from there, for the freedoms of us all.