Life & Style

A perfect lap

Nihar Ameen is thrilled to have got a permanent pool space at The Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence

Swimming coach Nihar Ameen is a happy man. After having had to criss-cross the length and breadth of Bengaluru in search of a permanent home for his prestigious Dolphin Academy, the veteran coach and Dronacharya Awardee is finally content.

The Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence (CSE), a sprawling private venture on the city’s outskirts in the north, sporting state-of-the-art infrastructure in the form of a 10-lane Olympic-sized swimming pool, has welcomed him with open arms. “We have just started here. I am sure for the future it is going to be great. The athletes can train in peace,” says Nihar.

No one knows this better than Nihar himself. “Other than the military pools, those in MEG and ASC and at Jain International School, most other pools are owned by the BBMP,” he says. “They were outdated and with poor quality of construction. We had to deal with having eight to 10 batches for the public every day. The room for our National swimmers to train was highly curtailed.”

“At CSE I will have 10 lanes to train at 5.30 in the morning. If it is at any other pool, I would have had just two. In summers, it gets crazy because the public would want to use it more. To create international champions, this isn’t the set up.”

Yet, it didn’t stop Nihar from coaching the first Indian swimmer to qualify for two events at a single Olympics, Shikha Tandon at Athens 2004. Also among his wards is Virdhawal Khade, the youngest Indian swimmer to qualify for the Olympics back in 2008 when he was just 16 and a bronze medallist (50m freestyle) two years later at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

Another one is Sandeep Sejwal, bronze winner in 50m breaststroke at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. Khade and Sejwal, in fact, underwent a rigorous training camp recently at the CSE before flying out for the Jakarta Asian Games.

“We do not have to go abroad any more for training,” states Nihar. “The infrastructure here is as good as, if not better, than the rest of the world. It is not just the pool. Even if it had just been a pool, I would have been thrilled. But it is only one under an umbrella of other facilities. There is a restaurant, gyms, strength and conditioning experts, a nutritionist, a psychologist... everything is just a stone’s throw away.”

According to Nihar, if these developments had happened earlier, it could have made a huge difference for the country’s swimmers.

“For 17 years, I worked in a pool in Sadashivnagar, which was built in 1977. Wave control and water purity was a problem. The filtration process was old and the starting blocks were concrete. There was no way a swimmer could get an explosive start. Now we don’t have that trouble.”

In addition he wants to engage the wider community. Despite being built with an Olympic athlete in mind, the Academy does cater to the public by organising coaching camps. “Did you know that drowning is the biggest cause of accidental death in children under the age of 14 in India? Ours is one of the few countries which doesn’t have swimming as part of the school curriculum. It is a life skill. So we are happy to be here and do our bit.”

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:30:58 AM |

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