Young swimmer making big splashes

Personality: Freestyle specialist Khushi promises to carry on Karnataka's legacy after a fine show in State Games

Young swimmer making big splashes
At a time when most children her age are wrestling with school books, Khushi Dinesh is busy bringing home gold.

For Khushi, Karnataka’s rising talent in swimming, it has been all about sacrificing a relaxed and enjoyable lifestyle for success in her chosen path. Her life revolves around a strict diet, a disciplined and consistent schedule of practice, driven by the hunger to improve her skills.

The results of her strong commitment are already apparent. After becoming the youngest to compete at a Senior National Championship last year in Ranchi, Khushi impressed at the South Asian Championship in Colombo last year by clinching six medals, including five gold and a silver.

A freestyle specialist, the Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre trainee moved up a level after impressive performances at the Sub-junior and Junior National championships. In her first Junior Nationals in Bengaluru last year, Khushi triumphed in the 1500 and 400 metres freestyle and finished second in the 200 metres individual medley and 200 metres freestyle. She also won four gold medals in as many events in the Sub-junior section.

Khushi has continued her winning ways this year, with her trip to Hubballi for the State Games making her richer by five gold medals. Her victories came in the freestyle events of 400M, 1500M, 200M and 800M besides the gold in 200M individual medley.

“It was my father who urged me to take up an individual sport. I began playing tennis and enjoyed swimming as well. Once I started my schooling, I had to choose between the two and I preferred swimming,” Khushi says.

Once she started training seriously, Khushi’s progress has been steady, thanks to her willingness to embrace rigorous practice sessions. “I wake up at 5:00 am and I am in the pool for three hours. I again continue my practice for the same duration after school. My coaches make me swim with the boys in order to increase my pace. I enjoy such challenges and that makes me tougher,” she says.

Getting the better of senior opponents had been a regular feature for Khushi in inter-school meets. But a big sign of Khushi being a future prospect arrived when she clinched silver at the Senior State championships last year. She finished ahead of experienced campaigners like Shraddha Sudhir, Nikitha SV and Preksha. “It was the 400 metre freestyle. I was determined to give my best. Malavika (V) won gold but it was special to beat the other seniors for silver,” she says.

In a story that involves lot of highs, the 13-year-old Khushi did face a phase that tested her will power. “I had to be away from swimming for my exams. I went on a holiday afterwards and when I was back, all my batch-mates at BAC had gained promotion to the senior level. With no training for three months, I had put on weight and I was slow in the pool. I was finding it tough to win races. That’s when my confidence took a hit. But my parents, my mother especially, and my coaches supported me to get back to my best,” she says.

Initially mentored by senior coach and Dronacharya awardee Pradeep Kumar, Khushi is currently training under Padmanabha Rao. “She has good technique and a fine physique for the sport. Her strokes are smooth and natural and that’s what makes her special,” explains Rao.

Daughter of Dinesh, a civil-engineer and Hemalatha J, a home-maker, Khushi is aware that she has to improve further. “Freestyle was my first stroke and I fell in love with it. I love individual medley too but I have to work on my breaststroke since I feel that’s where others are catching up on me.”

With Malavika moving to the United States to pursue her education and Damini K Gowda advancing into the open category, Khushi could be the next big thing in age-group competitions, feels Rao. “If she continues to perform in the same manner, she can do very well at the Asian level,” says Rao.

Swimming is everything for her but during her leisure time, Khushi, an eighth standard student of Sophia School, loves reading books. “Swimming is my passion and that’s my priority. It’s been a long time since I ate chocolates but I feel that’s fine. I relax myself by reading novels and I love nature,” she beams.
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