Sanjay makes a big splash

Sanjay makes a big splash

Personality: Karnataka teenager has emerged as a force to reckon with in the junior ranks

Sanjay makes a big splash
Karnataka’s presence in the Indian swimming scene has been immense. Not only does the State garner a major share of medals at various national events across age-group and the open category, it’s also the training base of some of India’s top swimmers. Be it the Rio Olympics-bound Sajan Prakash or the Asian Games medalists Sandeep Sejwal and Veerdhaval Khade, the best in the country have spent a considerable amount of time shaping their career in the pools of Bengaluru.

The well maintained pools and top quality coaches have produced champions over the years. Slowly joining the league is Sanjay C J. The 14-year-old has been a force to reckon with in the age-group categories in the last couple of years, making a big impact at the 2013 Sub-Junior National Championships, where he was named the best swimmer in his age category for a feat of five gold medals and two national records.

Since then, there hasn’t been an age-group National meet where Sanjay hasn’t been named the best swimmer in his category. And the scenario was no different at the just concluded 43rd Junior National Championships in Bengaluru. Sanjay was named the best swimmer in Group II for winning five individual gold medals and setting three national records. He won the gold in the 100, 200, 400, 800 and the 1500 metres frestyle, setting new national records in the 200, 400 and the 800 meter races.

“It really feels good. Knowing that your hard work is rewarded makes you want to push harder and achieve higher goals,” says the Dolphin Aquatics trainee.

“Here, I would say the first two days were good. I broke two national records. But the third day, I missed another record by 0.22 seconds. I was a little sad about it. It was a silly mistake that cost me that record. But then again I came back strong and another record followed. That’s satisfying,” he continues, fully aware that a mistake had cost him another record feat.

Sanjay was just seven when he first jumped into the water. In Chennai at his grandparents’ place for the summer vacation, a swimming pool seemed to be the ideal place for the young Sanjay to spend his time. “It started as a fun activity. Back then, I never thought that I could be this good at the sport. In Chennai, going to the pool seemed be the best option,” he recollects.

Later, when the 14-year-old got into competitive swimming, he too – like many others -- had to struggle for success. “Initially, winning a medal itself was a big thing, let alone setting a record. But then, the move to Dolphin Aquatics did the trick for me,” says Sanjay who started off at the Vijaynagar swim centre.

“He was an average swimmer when he came to us four years ago. It’s not that his basics weren’t strong, it was just a matter fine tuning his strokes to get that extra edge over other swimmers,” says Sanjay’s coach Nihar Ameen, a Dronacharya awardee.

“And in the past four years, the development is there for you to see. His records and medals speak for themselves. I am confident that he can go a long way if he continues this way,” he added.

The biggest struggle for an athlete of Sanjay’s age is to achieve the right balance between their favoured sport and academics. And Sanjay too believes that it plays a very important role in shaping him as a better athlete.

“Of course education is very important, especially in India where academics are the be-all-and-end-all of most peoples’ lives. So for me, I end up spending enough time in the pool and some time that I get to rest, I do my studies. I usually study for an hour or so during the weekdays, and a bit more time during the weekends when there’s no training,” states the class nine student of NAV KIS Educational Centre.

Competing at the Olympic Games is every athletes’s dream and Sanjay is no different, setting the target of Tokyo 2020 for himself.  “Yes, that’s the target I’ve set for myself, the ‘A’ standard for Tokyo Games. Hopefully by the time we’re there I am a better swimmer and I can achieve the target,” he states.
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