Sprinter Dutee Chand, whom Indian publications have dubbed the country’s fastest woman, has become its first athlete to openly identify as gay.
Chand, 23, told the Indian Express, an English-language daily newspaper in India, in an interview published Sunday that she is in a same-sex relationship.
“I have found someone who is my soulmate. I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with whoever they decide they want to be with. I have always supported the rights of those who want to be in a same-sex relationship. It is an individual person’s choice,” she told the Express. “Currently, my focus is on the World Championships and the Olympic Games but in the future I would like to settle down with her.”
Chand said she decided to openly identify as gay after India’s Supreme Court decriminalized same-sex relations last year, overturning a 2013 ruling that upheld a centuries-old law from the time of British rule. India still does not recognize same-sex marriages.
She told the Express that her decision to come out should be respected and should not affect how people see her as an athlete.
“I wanted to be with someone who will encourage me to continue being a sportsperson,” she said. “I have been a sprinter for the past 10 years and I will perhaps continue to run for the next five to seven years. I travel around the world to compete. It is not easy. Mujhe kisi ka sahara bhi chahiye (I need someone who will support me on the personal front).”
The sprinter won two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games, four years after the International Association of Athletics Federations dropped her from India’s Commonwealth Games team on the grounds of having testosterone levels higher than the rules allowed, according to the Express. The IAAF withdrew the rules last year, allowing her to run in the 100-meter and 200-meter races.