Having booted out flat feet, Anshul sets sight on Tokyo 2020

The 28-year-old swimmer defied a chronic flat foot condition to emerge as one of India's top-drawer swimmers.

Anshul Kothari: 'On days I have classes, I train for five hours and on the weekends for upto seven.'   -  Special Arrangement

The quartet of Virdhawal Khade, Anshul Kothari, Arjun Jayaprakash and Aaron D’Souza made quite a splash when they qualified for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games (CWG) men’s 4 x 100 metres freestyle finals.

For the first time, it earned the Indians the privilege of standing shoulder to shoulder with the sport’s superpowers such as Australia, England and Canada, alongside the quadrennial event’s elite.

Few would believe that the second of the fab four was diagnosed with a flat foot condition early in life. Doctors warned he’d walk with bent legs and suggested surgery. His parents showed him an alternate route to recovery—swimming.

As an eight-year-old, Anshul attended a summer swimming camp at Surat, Gujarat. Coach Prakash Sarang saw the spark and urged him to plunge headlong into the pool. It was a lean patch for about seven years, the medals few and far between, culminating in failure to crack the Indian junior team.

“I saw a senior swimmer in India colours and that was the trigger I needed. I peaked late but made it straight to the senior squad for the CWG,” recalled Kothari, now a Post Graduate Programme (PGP) student of management at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, in a chat with Sportstar.

A bigger disappointment awaited him when a shoulder injury last year knocked him out for four months and made him miss the Rio Olympics qualifying time by a whisker. “Rest and recovery meant I had to forego crucial practice and couldn’t make the cut,” rued Anshul, also a veteran of two Asian Games.

Now the 28-year-old has set his sights on Tokyo 2020, towards which he has pulled out all the stops. “I enrolled for a one-year course at ISB to be ready for the Asian and Commonwealth Games next year. On days I have classes, I train for five hours and on the weekends for upto seven,” he said, indicating the seriousness of his intent.

“Sadly in India, we think of the Olympics only in the year it happens. There’s a lot to be done. I hope to leverage the ISB management expertise to increase the sparse private sector funding of sports. I’ll start with swimming and diversify into other sports. Even after retirement, I’ll be involved in bringing about long-term change,” concluded Anshul.

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