No major splash

Swimming

No major splash

The lack of rivalry has taken away the competitive edge, reducing most of the events at the Senior National Swimming Championship into lop-sided affairs. Barring a couple of classic battles, the six-day meet failed to produce any eye-catching swim in Thiruvananthapuram. The situation has been the same for the last decade or so in national swimming meets.

The predictability of the events made the championship a lacklustre affair. The lone real contest on view was between Arhatha Magavi and Richa Mishra. Richa got the better of Magavi in the 200M freestyle.

However, the 15-year-old Baldwin High School student took revenge with a national record in the 200M individual medley. The fact that Richa was beaten for the first time in two years expose the lack of competition at the top level, even considering the fact that the Delhi swimmer is a mighty force to reckon with.

“It’s been an easy ride for me all these years. I love challenges and it’s good for the sport that Arhatha is coming up,” said Richa, who won her sixth consecutive best swimmer award here.

Runaway winners
In recent times, a handful of top class swimmers have been emerging runaway winners while virtually throwing the second place out of the equation. For instance, in the 400 individual medley, Rehan Poncha won by a good 19 seconds margin from Mervyn Chen of RSPB.

But Rehan gives a different opinion on the matter. “I don’t want rivalries when I swim in India. I want to win as many gold medals as possible. I want myself to be the best. But when we go abroad we get a lot of competition that’s when you improve your timings,” viewed Rehan.

Admitting that he has not been really challenged in his events in the last three years, Rehan went on: “I enjoy competing at the Nationals because you know you are going to be the man to beat. Yes, it is true that many times the events are one-sided,” acknowledged Rehan, who claimed his third successive best swimmer title in Thiruvananthapuram.

There is no shortage of talent in the country but unless it is tapped the situation could well turn from bad to worse, with quality swimmers emerging from only a few centres. While Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have been producing champions consistently, the situation is not the same in many other states.

“What you require is motivation. When you motivate a swimmer to perform well, more swimmers want to follow suit and that will bring in a healthy rivalry,” said National coach Pradeep Kumar.

Citing the example of Srinand Srinivas of Karnataka, Pradeep said: “Srinand is a talented swimmer but he gave focus to his academics. So he couldn’t fully realise his potential. Good support system, infrastructure and proper guidance are needed for nurturing talent. Above all, belief in oneself is also crucial towards success,” added Pradeep.

Lack of basic facilities, quality coaches and financial aspects too have prevented the sport from spreading wings. Apart from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu and occasional splashes of brilliance from other centres, the sport hasn’t really caught on. For this to happen, the Swimming Federation of India will have to turn it focus on various age groups. Even though the federation conducts age group meets, lack of proper grooming means many a talent does not attain full bloom.

Lack of financial incentives is also a factor, with many swimmers giving up the sport to focus on studies. Unless a strategy is formed to nurture the budding swimmers, it is difficult see a drastic change in the situation in the near future.

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