Inspired by Srihari, Suneesh begins to think big

S Suneesh, who had a bagful of medals at Kerala State swimming championships last year, is inspired by his 'best friend' Srihari Nataraj, who brings out the best in him.

As he was warming down at the Aquatic Complex here on Friday evening, S. Suneesh got a long-distance call from Srihari Nataraj. Srihari, who is now competing in the World swimming championships in Gwangju (South Korea), had broken the 200m backstroke national record there on Thursday and he had a lot to tell Suneesh.

“Srihari is my best friend now, we train together under the same coach A.C. Jayarajan in Bengaluru. And he keeps inspiring me,” said Suneesh in a chat with Sportstar on the eve of the Kerala State swimming championships here on Friday evening.

“When we do our workouts together, Srihari virtually pulls out the best in me. He pushes me, keeps telling me, ‘you can do it easily’. He has taken Indian swimming to a very high level.”

Suneesh, a breaststroke specialist, had a bagful of medals at the State meet last year in Thiruvananthapuram but he has a long way to go in the national circuit. He was eighth in the 100m breaststroke, one of his main events, in 1:06.44s and was nearly four seconds behind the champion Sandeep Sejwal.

But after training with Srihari for the last six months, he has begun to think big.  

“My main goal is to become the first Indian to go below one minute in the 100m breaststroke. I plan to do that within the next two to three years,” said the 21-year-old who won a bronze at the National varsities meet last year.

“I will be doing the 100m breast between 1:02 and 1:03 (current personal best 1:05.34) at the Nationals, my timing has improved considerably after training under Jayarajan and I hope to win a medal in the coming senior Nationals. And I’m looking at doing 28 to 29s in the 50m breast (PB 29.53). In practise sessions itself, I’m now giving 29.10.” 

SPRINTER AND LONG JUMPER

Suneesh, son of former national-level diver N. Suresh, was an athlete and a good sprinter and long jumper as a little kid before shifting to swimming at 10.

“I used to train at the Padmanabhaswamy temple pond in Thiruvananthapuram,” said the youngster who has done his B.Com from Mar Ivanios College in the capital.

He was coached by J.C. Madhu and then Vinod and later by former national coach K.K. Mukundan in Chennai before moving to Bengaluru.

Suneesh is expected to sweep the 50, 100 and 200m breaststroke gold here, though he is not focusing on the State championship. He is also looking at the Asian age-group event for his first big international break.