Three years ago, A.S. Anand was keen to join the Rajagiri Swimming Academy in Kochi but he was turned away, for there was no vacancy at the centre at Kalamassery.

“But we took him one and half years ago when one of the boys, Abhijith, got a job and left the academy,” said Unnikrishnan Nair, the Kerala Sports Council coach at the Rajagiri Academy.

Unnikrishnan and the academy are happy that they took Anand in. The youngster, who hails from Thiruvananthapuram, is now proving to be a fast fish in the pool. Anand, just 15, was the cynosure at the Kerala State schools swimming championship here on Wednesday. The long-distance freestyle swimmer won all his three individual golds here with meet records.

He also bagged two medals at the junior National in Chennai a few months ago — a silver in the 1500m and a bronze in the 800. He took part in four events and came out with personal bests in all of them.

“Kerala won three medals in the Junior National…two came from him and one from R.S. Vaishnav, who also trains at the Rajagiri centre,” said Unnikrishnan, who feels Anand is very special. “Anand’s oxygen-extraction capacity is very high — probably 10 to 15 per cent more than a normal boy — giving him a huge advantage,” said Unnikrishnan.

The son of a rubber-tapper, Anand took to swimming in a pond at Vembayam in Thiruvananthapuram five years ago.

“It was in a pond close to my house and I was at the Puleri Swimming Club and C.V. Ananthu was my coach,” said the youngster, a 10th standard student at the Kalamassery Government HSS. The Rajagiri Swimming Academy sponsors six talented boys in swimming at its Kalamassery centre.

“I’ve been there for nearly two years now and the facilities are very good. Everything is taken care of,” he said.

V. Turbo, who was on a record-breaking spree in the State and national school championships last year, was the academy’s first big star. He has got a job and is now out and Unnikrishnan feels that Anand could be even better.

Anand, who adores Michael Phelps and Virdhawal Khade, has his goal all set and clear. “First, I want to be a national champion …I am willing to work hard for it,” he said. “The rest, after that.”

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