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Updated: July 7, 2013 14:11 IST

Taking to water

KALYAN ASHOK
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Making of a champion C.J. Sanjay. Photo: Kalyan Ashok
The Hindu Making of a champion C.J. Sanjay. Photo: Kalyan Ashok

Karnataka swimmers have been doing well at the State and national championships

For decades Karnataka has been the power house of Indian aquatics and year after year, the State swimmers have been garnering lion’s share of medals at the senior, junior and sub-junior National championships and it is testimony to the strong foundation that has been in place in Karnataka in aquatics.

The recent sub-junior National championship at Panaji, Goa, had it’s share of young stars, who did the State proud. Swimmers like C.J. Sanjay who was the Boys Group III champion, Sri Hari and Vania Kapoor (Girls Group III champion), shone brightly for Karnataka. The outstanding among the trio was C.J. Sanjay, who dominated the Group III ( 11 to 13 years ) and emerged as champion with 28 points with five golds and one silver with two new National records in 50 metre freestyle ( 27.49 secs) and 100 m freestyle ( 1; 00.65 mins). He won the 50m butterfly (30.27 secs ) and 100 m butterfly (1:07.77 mins ) races with elan. He also bagged a gold in the 4 x 50 medley relay and a silver in the 4 x 50 freestyle relay. Thus it has been a memorable outing for this 11-year old from Bangalore’s Dolphin Swim Centre, run by the nationally renowned coach, Nihar Ameen, who in the past produced a clutch of Olympians like Hakimuddin, Meghana Narayan, Shika Tandon, besides the current Indian stars, Virdhawal Khade and Sandeep Sejwal.

The decision to train under Nihar Ameen a year ago proved to be a right move for Sanjay, who had earlier been training in Vijayanagar Swim Centre. “The training in VSC was good, but we were aiming something big at National level, that we have realised by joining Dolpin,” says Sanjay’s father, Vijyakrishnan.

For Sanjay, the title triumph in Goa was a huge morale booster. “The back to back wins in the 50 and 100 metre butterfly races gave lot of confidence and I went on to break National marks in the 50 and 100 m freestyle events. The 50 metre fly was the tough race, as I won by a fraction of a second over rival from Gujarat, who was a much taller boy” , says Sanjay about his triumph.

It is a hard grind for Sanjay for as he copes with his studies besides spending four hours in pool everyday and he is not complaining. “I want to specialise in butterfly and freestyle strokes and I have dream of making it to the Olympics one day,” says the lad, who is clearly not going to sit idle on his heap of 45 National and State medals.

He loves to draw and play piano, to cool off after his stint in the pool. “We put Sanjay in swimming because, he was very active kid and with Bangalore having such good infrastructure for swimming, we thought, it would be right thing and I am glad he is doing well and we will support him as long as he enjoys the sport and does well in it,” says Vijyakrishnan.

Nihar Ameen is quite delighted with his ward’s show. “I would say it is a synergy of our expertise and his natural talent. The boy is going to go places in future and he is far ahead of any other kid in his group in the country. I never go by National ranking and I track the performance at international level and record says, his timing is right in the top two bracket in the United States for his age group, ” says Nihar Ameen.

In the past few years, Nihar has shifted his gears and apart from training his senior swimmers, he is taking a hands-on approach to mould the younger lot, which was earlier done by junior coaches. “I am now putting an earnest effort to develop the grass-root talent and success of Sanjay and other kids shows that it is s paying off,” says Nihar Ameen.

Nihar would like to see his ward develop as a good all rounder doing well in all strokes, not just butterfly and freestyle alone. “I have a gut feeling that this kid could be a good long distance swimmer when he grows up. Let’s see how it goes,” says Nihar Ameen.

Though Karnataka enjoys near hegemony on the National scene, the State Association could do more, feels Nihar Ameen. “Maharashtra has district meets, weekend and interclub championships and there’s plenty for kids, you can’t make champions without adequate competitions. One hopes Karnataka Swimming Association does something more tangible in this respect,” concludes the ace coach.

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