The water sizzler

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CHATLINE Success, accolades and honours were quick in coming — the young Rehan Poncha, considered the best medley swimmer, tells KALYAN ASHOK that passion is the key

Aqua ace In this country, sports should be run by the youth , says Rehan Photos (Cover and above): Murali Kumar K.
Aqua ace In this country, sports should be run by the youth , says Rehan Photos (Cover and above): Murali Kumar K.

I f Rehan Poncha stacks up his medals, it would hit the roof of his flat, about 200 medals and he is still counting. The 26-year-old swimmer from Mumbai, has made Bangalore his home for a well over a decade now — to pursue his career in aquatics. He is a typical ‘next door' lad, the only difference being not every boy next door walks around with such a heavy load of achievements on his shoulders like this young swimmer, who is doing his post graduate studies in psychology.

Rehan took up swimming as a child — it was his doctor's advice for his asthma, but the prescribed treatment turned out to be a passion as the youngster began to shine in local junior meets. His father, Jehangir Poncha, realising his son's potential, decided to pack his bags and move over to Bangalore, the Mecca of swimming in the country. A stint with coach Nihar Ameen at the KC Reddy Swim Centre was followed by a long association with Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre and coach S. Pradeep Kumar — something that continues even today.

Success, accolades and honours were quick in coming as Rehan, considered to be the best medley swimmer began to sizzle at the pool. With three successive National best swimmer awards and two best overall male athlete awards at the National Games, besides medals garnered at international meets like the South Asian Games and the Asia Pacific championships are testimony to his prowess.

But then his life is not all about aquatics and awards, he does make space for other things also. “Though swimming is my passion, I love watching tennis and Formula One,” says Rehan.

His international assignments have taken him far and wide across the globe and among cities, he rates Rome as his favourite destination. “I went there for the World championship in 2009, and after the race, I always used to take time out and see all those wonderful historical monuments like the Colosseum. They have maintained their archaeological heritage so well,” says Rehan.

Swimming is a lonely sport, especially during training, and music is therapy to fight boredom and stress and Rehan says he listens to lot of music. “I listen to slow romantic numbers, hip–hop and all kinds, and carry music DVDs while on tour.” Though not exactly a foodie, Rehan digs into Mughlai fare. “Butter chicken and biryani are my favourites and for sea food, I head to Kudla,” says the swimmer.

If he had not become a swimmer, Rehan thinks he would have loved to be a tennis player or an F1 driver. “As a child, though I fancied shooting a lot. I used to go around with a toy gun and take pot shots to pass time,” he recalls.

Though winning has been a habit, Rehan counts qualifying for the Beijing Olympics (2006) as one of his most memorable moments. “It came the hard way and Olympics is the ultimate competition and I also cherish winning the Best Athlete in the National Games twice. The Arjuna Award, which I received this year, was another big moment of my life,” says Rehan.

The muddle and uncertainty that preceded the Commonwealth Games seemed to have dismayed Rehan. “Sports in the country should be run by the youth instead of being mismanaged by politicians. I would love to see a young sportsperson and or even ex-sportsman running the show,” was his opinion. He feels that every sportsperson should give something back to the sport that earned them name and fame. “I, for my part, would like to take up coaching or maybe run a swim academy of my own in a later stage of my career,” says Rehan with lot of conviction.

Rehan always believes in giving his best shot and that quality has been ingrained in him as a sportsman. “Love what you do, stay passionate and never say die,” signs off the aqua ace as he heads for his practice session for the Asian Games.




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