Promise of a better future

Monique Gandhi of Maharashtra was adjudged 'Best Swimmer' (Girls).-K. RAMESH BABU Monique Gandhi of Maharashtra was adjudged 'Best Swimmer' (Girls).

The competition at the Gachibowli Complex was of a very high standard and the meet saw a few talented swimmers bettering the national record. V. V. Subrahmanyam reports.

The 40th Junior National Aquatics Championship held at the Gachibowli Complex, in which Karnataka emerged as overall champion, saw some brilliant performances, by a few promising youngsters, clearly raising the hopes and aspirations of all those who are desperately looking for better days in this discipline, at the highest level.

Here, are some of the young achievers in the meet who came up with stand-out performances in the pool.

P. M. Abhishiktha:

13-year-old P. M. Abhishiktha of Tamil Nadu, an eighth standard student of SBOA School in Chennai, bagged three golds — one each in the 400m freestyle, 800m freestyle and in 1500m freestyle Group II category for girls.

The fact, that Abhishiktha won the medals in her maiden appearance in the Junior nationals, is all the more satisfying. “I never felt any pressure. I just went out there and enjoyed my stint in the pool,” pointed out the visibly pleased young swimmer.

A. V. Jayaveena:

She may not have repeated her own impressive performance of winning four golds and a silver from the last edition, but this 14-year-old girl did well to win three golds and a silver medal in the Group I category (girls).

“Well, records were never my target. I always believed that if you work hard and make the most of the opportunities, these things are bound to happen,” said a confident Jayaveena, a 10th standard student of Chettinad Vidyashram.

And, she has every reason to feel so, as she has erased the previous national record in this event set by Kanchi Desai of Maharashtra in 2011 (02:28.71) with a timing of 02:28.09.

Monique Gandhi:

Another outstanding swimmer in the meet was Monique Gandhi of Maharashtra who was also adjudged ‘Best Swimmer (Girls)’ and capped the final day with a new record in the Group I 800m freestyle with a timing of 09:21.24, beating the previous record held by Surabhi Tipre of Maharashtra (09.23.79), set in 2010.

Earlier, she won gold in the 200m breaststroke (2:48.64) and in the 400m freestyle with a timing of 4:30.71.

Maana Patel:

13-year-old Maana Patel of Gujarat, in Group II, was another outstanding performer, in the meet, when she won four gold medals in the 50m freestyle (28.28), 50m butterfly, 100m backstroke and 200m backstroke. Three of her wins came with new national records.

The girl from Ahmedabad created history by clocking India’s best-ever timing in 100m backstroke, 1:05.67. She achieved the feat in the Group II category for girls and in the process broke Olympian Shikha Tandon’s national record of 1.06.95, set at the national championship in Kolkata in September 2003. Incidentally, Tandon had set the record in the senior category as an 18-year-old.

A very confident Maana, a student of Udgam School, insists that she was never nervous and that the record was always at the back of her mind, before she took the plunge into the pool, even as her coach Kamlesh Nanavati (also General Secretary of the Swimming Federation of India) was struggling to control his emotions.

Even in the 200m backstroke, beating physical discomfort, Maana set a new meet record with a timing of 02.23.41, beating the previous best of Ananya Panigrahi of Maharashtra 02:32.25 set in the 2010 edition.

Mani Arvind:

Another huge success story of this edition was that of Mani Arvind. He had already won 24 medals in different nationals and is no novice in the pool. But still it takes some quality stuff to beat a 10-year-old national record, and so when this 12th standard student of Vijaya Composite eclipsed the previous record of Rehan Poncha, with whom he trained and even picked up a few tips, it was all the more satisfying.

In the Group I 200m breaststroke, he clocked 02.11.13, beating the earlier record of Tamil Nadu’s J. Agnishwar (02:12.75 set in 2007). Later, the Karnataka boy won the 200m backstroke event, also with another record timing of 02.11.30 (previous best was by Praveen Tokas of Delhi — 02.11.46 set in 2007).

“To win a gold in the 400m individual medley gold with a timing of 04:41.60 (Group I boys) beating Rehan’s record (04:42.57) is some kind of dream come true for me. I trained a lot, watching him from close quarters, and even had very useful interactions to improve my skills,” says the swimmer, who was also adjudged ‘Best Swimmer’ of the meet in the boys’ section.

S. P. Likith:

Selvaraj Prema Likith, a product of Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre in Benguluru, was another of the star performers in the meet. This 15-year-old swimmer finished the event with a rich haul of four golds — three in individual category and one in relay.

On the concluding day, Likith set a new national record in the Group I (boys) 200m breaststroke (2:26.44), beating the previous best of 2:29.19 by Sandeep Sejwal of Delhi in 2006.

“Honestly, I was not expecting this kind of performance. All I wanted was just to do well and enjoy the competition here,” remarked the youngster, who, like many of those, who made a big impact in this edition, is trained by national coach Pradeep Kumar. “Now, my next goal is to win an international medal,” he said, with a big smile.

Ishan Jaffer:

Ishan Jaffer of Maharashtra was also brilliant in Group II (boys), winning four golds including the 400m individual medley and 1500m freestyle and a silver.

Best swimmers: Boys: 1. M. Arvind (Karnataka — four golds), 2. Ishan Jaffer (Mahashtra — four golds, one silver).

Girls: 1. Monique Gandhi (Maharashtra — four golds), 2. Maana Patel (Gujarat — four golds).