Sajan Prakash’s family found in Kerala

The news of his demolished house and missing relatives didn’t stop Prakash from swimming the 200 metres butterfly round in the Asian Games.

Prakash finished outside the medals in fifth, but his prayers were answered after his uncle called to inform him his family members had survived the devastating floods.   -  AFP

 

Indian swimmer Sajan Prakash has been to hell and back at the Asian Games, competing in Jakarta while family members went missing in severe flooding in his state.

The 24-year-old became the first swimmer to reach last weekend's 200 metres butterfly final despite the knowledge that five of his relatives had not been found and his house in Kerala had been destroyed by floodwater.

Prakash finished outside the medals in fifth, but his prayers were answered after his uncle called to inform him his family members had survived the devastating floods in the southern Indian state that killed more than 350 people.

“I had trouble sleeping, thinking about my family,” said Prakash.

“I hadn't heard from them because they were cut off from the (phone) network and not able to contact us,” he added.

“I was very nervous but my uncle called to say they're all safe and everything is alright back home.”

Prakash's mother Shantymol — who is based in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu — initially tried keeping her son away from the news of the disaster, so that he could concentrate on his performance.

READ| Indian swimmers fail to qualify for finals

But after finding out about the floods from friends, Prakash had to put his anxiety aside.

“I knew that the rain was getting worse (in Kerala) when I arrived in Jakarta but I didn't know it was this bad,” Prakash said after Wednesday's 100m fly heats.

“But that's what we train for — to swim under pressure. If I think about it, I will screw up here. And if I screw up here, both are screwed. Either way I can't help, I just have to focus on what I have to do.”

After becoming the first Indian swimmer to reach an Asian Games final in more than 30 years, Prakash clocked a national record of one minute, 57.75 seconds — a distant 3.22 seconds behind Japanese winner Daiya Seto.

Prakash, who swam for India at the 2016 Rio Olympics, insisted he never thought of quitting the Asian Games.

“I prepared for this for a long time and I didn't want to screw it up by leaving,” he said.

“My team-mates kept me entertained and focused — being with them is different from being alone.

“It was my dream to get a medal in the Asian Games from childhood,” added Prakash.

“I've worked for it very hard — I did whatever was possible to do. If I would have placed top three it would have been a gift for my family. It would have been great.”