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Updated: November 2, 2011 18:57 IST

From neighbourhood girl to Olympic arena

Kalyan Ashok
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Nisha Millet, ace swimmer. File Photo: K.Gopinathan
Nisha Millet, ace swimmer. File Photo: K.Gopinathan

Nisha Millet reminisces about her days in Kammanahalli

Until recently, Kammanahalli had an Olympian as its proud resident — the golden girl of Indian aquatics Nisha Millet. Having lived there for quite some time after marriage, Nisha, who recently chose to move to Langford Town, has fond memories of her first home post-wedding. “I lived just off Kammanahalli Main Road near Jal Vayu Vihar complex. What I really liked about the place was its relative quiet and clean surroundings. You are in the city, but away from the clamour.”

Kammanahalli has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, she says. “There are now lots of places to shop and every variety of eating out joints and for us, who really love dining out frequently, it offered a lot of choice, from Indian, Mughalai, Chinese and Italian,” says Nisha. She also liked the safety factor in Kammanahalli. “For a woman to go around and shop even at night, it is quite safe,” adds Nisha, who then decided to shift to other side of the town, “purely for professional reasons”.

Nisha emerged as a precocious talent on the Indian swimming scene when she dazzled in the senior Nationals at Goa in 1994 with four golds. She was just 12 years old then. She then travelled a long way in her career as she remained an undisputed queen of the pool in freestyle and backstroke. She represented the country in Sydney Olympics in 2000 and became the first Indian woman swimmer to qualify for the Games.

Another outstanding achievement was the 1999 National Games at Manipur where she was declared ‘Best Athlete of the Games' after she won 14 golds. In 2000 she was conferred the Arjuna Award, Karnataka's Rajyotsava Award in 2001 and the Ekalayva Award in 2002. After her retirement in 2006 and her marriage to Bikranjit Chatterjee, Nisha became a coach and set up a swimming academy, which now has several training centres across the city.

“I train kids from six to 12 years in basics and teach them all strokes. Once they reach a certain level and are ready for competitions, I recommend them to other professional academies like the BAC. I don't want to get into the business of training for active competitions as you know it is full politics. I am happy doing my own little bit this way,” says Nisha. Arhatha Magavi, the State's top female swimmer, is Nisha's ‘find'.

Nisha feels the standard of swimming in the women's section has come down. “After Shikha [Tandon] who has moved to the U.S. and I, there is hardly any big talent. But the boys are doing extremely well. Aaron D'Souza and Rehan Poncha are close to qualifying marks for the Olympics. Virdhawal Khade and Sandeep Sejwal have already made the Olympic grade and they get ample opportunity to train and compete abroad,” she observes.

She also laments the lack of sponsors for swimming. “They say it is not a spectator sport, but if they ever watched the kind of media blitz and corporate support at international meets, people will change their minds.”

What swimming in India needs is a big star, says Nisha, adding that Indian swimmers, barring a few, sadly quit due to academic pressure and other reasons.

Besides swimming, making confectionaries — cakes and pastries — and travelling, are her other interests. “I would like to travel as much as possible in India and abroad before we settle down to raise a family,” she signs off.

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