Indian swimmers shaping up in Glenwood pool
The overwhelming desire to represent their country at the 2020 Olympics is what drove six young India swimmers to leave the comfort of their home and take up a three-year scholarship in South Africa.
The elite swimmers were chosen by the Mumbai-based Jindal Steel group to attend Glenwood High, where they will undergo training under the watchful eye of Chad le Clos’ coach Graham Hill.
Hill was approached by the Jindal group of companies to come to India and train the youngsters and when he declined to take up the offer, the youngsters where instead sent to him.
Aryan Makhija, Siva Sridhar, Likith Prema, Danush Suresh, Karan Raju and Manav Dileep arrived in the country one month ago and are boarding at the top Durban school, where they have already begun their training programme.
Aryan, 15, a grade 10 pupil from Mumbai, is a specialist in the 200m and 400m freestyle events. He said he started swimming when he was six. He is the national junior freestyle champion.
“It was a very difficult decision for me to make to leave my family and come to South Africa. However, I want to win a medal for India in the pool, and that is what made me decide to take up the offer. Graham sir is an excellent coach and I am enjoying my experience here,” said Aryan.
Siva, 14, a grade 10 pupil from Bangalore, specialises in backstroke.
He said: “South Africa has always produced top swimmers and I am looking forward to the competition here.”
Likith, 16, a grade 11 pupil from Bangalore, is the national junior breaststroke champion. He said he had already made many friends here.
“The people here are very friendly and helpful. Before coming here I… (knew) there were many Indians living here. However, I didn’t realise there were so many. Sometimes when I go out it feels like I’m at home,” said Likith.
Danush, 15, a grade 10 pupil from Chennai, is also a breaststroke specialist. He said the greatest adjustment for him was to get used to the amount of meat that has become a part of their daily diet.
“From breakfast to supper… everything is non-veg. I know it’s to strengthen our muscles but I sometimes crave veg dishes. It was a tough decision to leave my family but my parents encouraged me to take up the scholarship. Like all my friends here, we stay in touch with our families through Skype,” said Danush.
Karan, 15, a Grade 9 pupil from Bangalore, is specialising in the butterfly stroke. He is enjoying the experience.
“It’s been amazing so far. It feels like back home, minus the parents. The training we are getting here is very different from what we were used to in India. There’s more quality and less quantity. I am also enjoying the gym sessions,” said Karan.
Manav, 14, is a grade 10 pupil from Bangalore, focusses on breaststroke and freestyle. He said he was enjoying the strenuous swimming programme.
“All of us… are targeting the 2020 Olympics and are committed to achieving that dream. Swimming is gaining popularity in India and we hope to return and make India proud of us,” said Manav.
He added that being away from home had also helped make them independent.
Head of aquatics at Glenwood, Steven La Marque, said all six swimmers were following a full academic programme at the school.
“They are very talented and very fast in the pool. They will swim for the school once the programme starts in the second half of the year. They are also enrolled at the Seagull Swimming Club which is run by Graham Hill,” said La Marque.
Hill said he was in India in November last year at the invitation of Jindal Steel when he spotted the talent of the scholarship swimmers.
“All six of them are at the top of their game. They’ve been here for only a month but they have adjusted well. They are hungry for success and are well disciplined,” said Hill who is the Glenwood and SA national swimming coach.
The scholarship programme is targeting the 2020 Olympics but Hill wants to get them into the 2018 Commonwealth Games first.