As soon as she touched the wall, well ahead of the chasing pack, in a one-lap breaststroke race, Priyanka Priydrshni’s radiant smile illuminated her face as she turned her head towards the electronic scoreboard.
The teen’s win wasn’t the only reason for her unbridled joy but also because of her satisfaction at achieving a benchmark set by her to attain her dreams of making it big in the sport.
Priyanka, who turns just 16 on Sunday (October 28), has made a habit of creating records with every other competition. “I just want to swim as fast as I can. My aim is to try and break records whenever I compete,” remarked Priyanka.
With an abundance of talent, determination and a steely resolve, the Delhiite has become one of the brightest prospects to emerge in recent times in a country that is starved of quality women swimmers. Priyanka has shown immense potential at the Junior Nationals in Chennai and Senior Nationals in Pune this year, coming up with some breath-taking swims.
The promising breaststroker, who was laid low by typhoid weeks before the Senior meet, still proved too good for her experienced rivals in Pune. She claimed the 50M breaststroke gold (34.38 seconds), snatching the title from defending champion AV Jayaveena, and also posted a national mark of 34.29 seconds in the heats. Priyanka also came close to erasing the 100M national record of 1:16.29 which she had created at the Junior Nationals.
“I was disappointed that I could compete only in two events but at the same time I am happy that I was able to race in my pet events. I was down with typhoid after the Junior Nationals. I started training only a few days before the Senior Nationals, so I never thought I could compete here. But I am satisfied to have come up with some good timings,” Priyanka pointed out.
Months before the Pune meet Priyanka sent warning to her rivals by claiming four individual titles in girls Group I category in Chennai. She bettered the 15-year-old national record in the 100M breaststroke and then went on to win 50 and 200 breaststroke, and 200 individual medley crowns to earn the best swimmer award.
“She is very young with lot of potential. There is lot of scope for improvement. Obviously we are targeting the Rio 2016,” said Nihar Ameen, under whom Priyanka is training for the past two years at the Dolphin Aquatics in Bangalore.
Priyanka’s romance with the water began when she was four years old after her father Sanjay Kumar Paliwal, a Supreme Court lawyer, took her to Talkatora pool. “My father was my first coach. He taught me the nuances of swimming. Then I started competing in the age-group meets before taking the sport seriously,” said Priyanka.
Six years later after her first plunge into the pool, Priyanka won the 50M breaststroke, her first gold medal, at the 2006 Sub-junior Nationals in Thiruvananthapuram. From then on, winning medals has become a routine affair for the Delhi lass. “Yes, I always want to win gold. But it’s nice to win gold by clocking your personal best,” Priyanka said.
With her main focus in competing at the Rio 2016 Olympics, Priyanka last year travelled to the USA for getting advanced training under noted coach David Marsh at the SwimMAC academy in Carolina.
“I was training under David for the last one year and it really helped me. So I will be continuing my training in the USA but with coordination from Nihar sir. My target is to compete in Rio Olympics. Not just to compete but put up a good show. I am also concentrating on the 2013 World Championship in Rome and other major meets like the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow,” Priyanka offered.