Talented Maana poised to make a major splash

Talented Maana poised to make a major splash

One of the main reasons behind conducting junior national championships is to help identify raw talents that can be cut and polished for a brighter tomorrow.

One such talent to emerge from the just concluded 40th Junior National Aquatic Championships in Hyderabad is Maana Patel.

Just 13 and hailing from Gujarat, the gifted teenager caught the eye of everyone at the Gachibowli pool with some fine performances that caused the biggest splash amidst ripples created by a few others.

She lit up the opening day of the five-day meet by capturing the gold in the Group I 100M backstroke event with an Indian Best (considered across all age categories) of 1:05.67, obliterating Shikha Tandon’s ten-year record of 1:16.95 by a massive 11 seconds.

She won her second gold the next day, romping home in the 50M freestyle, her efforts to break the national record hampered by the heavy rain that lashed Hyderabad for almost 24 hours.

The weather continued to remain bleak on the third day as well but returning to her pet event – the backstroke – Maana sparkled. Proving that her opening act was no fluke, she powered home to a third gold, setting another India Best of 30.74 seconds.

With her confidence sky-high, she then nailed her fourth gold with yet another India Best performance in the 200M backstroke, clocking 2:23.41 to finish a whopping 14 seconds ahead of silver-medallist Nivya Raja. Maana did suffer a defeat in the 50M butterfly where she finished seventh but her earlier exploits were enough to fetch her the best swimmer award in her category.

“I’m really thrilled with my performance,” said Maana, a pupil of Swimming Federation of India secretary-general and coach Kamlesh Nanavati. “When I entered this Nationals I actually didn’t set any targets in terms of how many golds I wanted to win. Unlike the Sub-junior championships (last year in Rajkot) where I won four golds, I knew the competition will be tougher here.

“All I wanted to do was to improve my timings and, may be, try for a couple of meet records. Looking back I didn’t expect to set an India Best timing, let alone three of them. My priority was to gear myself up for the Senior Nationals this October and lay the foundation for the next year’s Asian Games,” added Maana.

Maana’s success can be attributed to her hard work and dedication. Having taken to swimming to boost her health and immunity at the age of eight, she quickly found this was her calling.

She wakes up at 4.30 am and trains from 5-7 before heading off to school. She then returns home at 2 pm only to have a quick bite and then dash off for an evening session from 3-5. Knowing that education too is equally important, the ninth standard student then attends tuitions, returning home just around dinner hour, leaving her with no time to watch her favourite cartoons and movies.

“I feel bad that I can’t enjoy life like my other friends. But on the flipside, I feel good that I can achieve all these things. Yes, I can’t go to movies, watch TV or go for a vacation during holidays as there is no time. But my mother keeps telling me that at this age I need to focus on my career. I actually have no complaints,” said Maana.

Despite her hard work and commitment, Maana’s rise has been quite sharp. While she won four gold at her second appearance at the Sub-junior Nationals in Rajkot last year, she managed just a bronze in the Seniors’ competition months later. However, her timings in this Juniors Nationals has everyone stunned.

“I would attribute her rise to her sincerity,” said Nanavati. “Her strokes are brilliant and her movements are just too smooth. She is taking shape really well. I spoke to national coach Pradeep Kumar and he believes in time to come, if she keeps training hard, she will get good results for India.”

The October’s Senior Nationals in Thiruvananthapuram where the competition is bound to be much stiffer will offer a further insight into Maana’s mettle. Whether will she be able to make a similar impact only time can tell. However, she has made a promising start and if harnessed well, a bright future awaits the backstroker.

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