A Phelps fan, the 17-year-old says it's all about hard work and perseverance

Seventeen-year-old Ashwin Gopikrishna says his brother inspired him to take up sports. A talented football player, his brother would often point to his medals and ask him when he would go out there and win a few of his own.

“I wanted to be like him. And so I started working hard at swimming practice,” says the XII Standard student of Bishop Cotton Boys High School. Today, Ashwin proudly displays over 50 medals he has won in swimming competitions, from inter-school competitions to State-level events.

Like most aspiring sportsmen, Ashwin started with football and basketball. “It wasn’t easy,” he recalls. “Not every sportsman or an athlete is born talented. I told this to myself when I realised I didn’t have the height for basketball.”

When he first tried swimming, he started out the slowest in the group. “But I knew I wanted to excel at a sport, so I accepted my shortcomings and started working hard.” His first few attempts weren’t successful, he recalls, but he learnt from each of them. He’s won a gold at a district-level tournament and brought home a bronze at a State-level competitive swimming event.

Motivators

Ask him what he enjoys most about swimming, and he lists his favourite strokes and techniques. On top of the list is the butterfly stroke. Coming from a family of sportspersons, Ashwin says he draws inspiration and motivation from family members. “My parents and my coach Tulasidas are very supportive. Together, the training module they prepare ensures I am not over-worked but am well prepared. They also ensure I have a balanced life with sufficient time for studying, and spending quality time with family and friends.”

Ashwin says he heads for swimming early every morning so that he can practice for three hours before going to school. “I pack my swimming gear and book, travel to school in a BMTC bus. Sometimes, if time permits, I play basketball in the afternoon. But, I make sure my studies don’t come in the way of my training routine.”

Asked about the state of infrastructure for swimmers in Bangalore, the young swimmer takes a strong and well-thought out stance. He says that while Karnataka has the best swimmers in the entire country, there is no system to promote talented swimmers.

“We do not provide adequate avenues for our swimmers. Athletes are often harshly criticised for their losses in international sporting events, but back home, all emphasis is on one sport. Most others, like swimming, are neglected.” The condition of the pools, says the young swimmer, is “bad and not fit for athletes to train in.”

Ashwin says he has two role models: tech icon Bill Gates and Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps. What attracts him to them is their “humility, hard work and seriousness towards their passion.”

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