This budding athlete who wishes to become an international swimmer has set national records in freestyle swimming.

The much-hyped Karnataka squad had the mortification of finishing behind Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu in the 27th National sub-junior aquatic championship at Bangalore recently.

Ray of hope

But amidst that disappointment, a lone swimmer, V. Malavika provided a silver lining with a stand-out show.

Malavika, a budding 12-year- old freestyle ace in the making , won two golds with National records in 50m freestyle (29.71 seconds) and 100m freestyle (1:03.70s) and won a silver in the 200m freestyle (2:17.52).

The record in the 100m freestyle came on the final day of the meet, as she signed off in style.

"That was my last race as a Group III swimmer as I move to Group II, next year and I am quite happy with the results. With every race, I have improved my timings," said Malavika, who incidentally bettered three National marks in the Karnataka Sub-junior championship in June.

Solid base

Like most swimmers from Karnataka, Malavika is a product of the State nursery for aquatics, the Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre (BAC), which has produced scores of national champions like Loraine Verghese, Nisha Millet, Abhinaya Shetty, Sajini Shetty, Jayathirth Abhijith and current stars such as Rehan Poncha, Aaron D'Souza and Arahatha Magavi.

BAC, is perhaps the best training centre in the country, given its professional set up of officials and coaches and top-end infrastructure which includes an international class pool, practice pool and gym.

Not less than 3,000 `wannabe swimmers' sign up for its learn-to-swim programmes during summer camps and finding a talent is not that difficult.

It was coach, Bhushan, who spotted Malavika, when she came to BAC, years ago, to sign for a summer camp. "She had natural strokes and I saw a good potential," said Bhushan. He along with other BAC staff worked on her technique, speed and endurance. "She is at an age, where one has to guide her carefully, you cannot possibly load girls, when they are around 11 or 12, it is okay after they turn 15," observes Bhushan.

The coach was clearly overjoyed with Malavika's show in the Nationals.

"She swam very well to get those records and though she did not get the gold in 200m freestyle, I was happy that she cut nearly four seconds off her earlier best," said Bhushan.

Next stage

Now that Malavika moves into the higher age group (Group II), Bhushan wants her to keep the momentum. ``She has the talent to take on the challenge in Group II, but I would like to see her get a little more aggressive in the pool and develop a strong finish," said Bhushan.

Malavika's parents are very supportive as she juggles with studies at Delhi Public School and swimming at BAC.

"It is her passion to become an international swimmer and we wouldn't mind supporting her as long as she has the interest," said her father Vishwanath, a systems engineer.

Malavika, has her sights set on becoming an Olympian. "My ultimate goal," said the youngster, who idolises Michael Phelps.

When off the pool, she loves to relax listening to music and her recent exploits are indeed music to the swimming fraternity in Bangalore.