SFI felicitates 1970 Asian Games silver medallists Bharat Merchant and Avinash Sarang

Bharat Merchant and Avinash Sarang remembered winning the silver medal in water polo at the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok.

Bharat Merchant, the top scorer of the Indian Water Polo team that won the Asian Games silver in Bangkok in 1970.   -  Special Arrangement

The Swimming Federation of India announced the plan to have separate national championship for water polo, while felicitating Bharat Merchant and Avinash Sarang who had helped India to the silver medal in the Asian Games in Bangkok in 1970.

The golden jubilee celebration, conducted virtually by the swimming fraternity, helped Bharat and Avinash to walk down the memory lane and recall minute details of the path to the silver medal, and the warmth of reception on return.

Bharat, the youngest member of the team then, and eventually the top scorer, narrated the story of losing a thriller final to Japan, after the team was relieved to make the final. He also remembered the Sikh community bringing food to the Indian team.

"The Prime Minister Indira Gandhi spoke to me for a minute and we went to the reception by the President V.V. Giri. Coming to Mumbai was celebration for three months," Bharat said.

He was selected in the Asian All Star team, to play against the Combined European team.

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Avinash Sarang, on a tour of the US, remembered the last minute clearance of the team by the Indian Olympic Association, after the hard work at the preparatory camp.

Members of the water polo team that won the Asian Games bronze at home in 1982, Captain Utpal Mitra, goalkeeper Romen Das and forward Sushil Kohli, shared the influence of the legends of the 1970 team.

Ajay Apte who represented the country in the 1986 Asian Games, and active as the Chief Referee in national championships, suggested ways to regain past glory in water polo.

Meenakshi Pahuja, champion open water swimmer, spoke about popularising the sport among the girls.

In conclusion, Bharat went to the extent of suggesting a Premier water polo league with a dozen teams, and assured the best support from the corporate world. He announced a trophy for the best centre forward in the national championship from the next edition.

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