New Delhi: Swimming is still in a nascent stage in India. But this aquatic sports is likely to make big splash in India, if a certain Maana Patel sees her dream translate into reality. The young swimmer is targeting a place in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
After shattering three national records, the 15-year-old has been roped in by the very ambitious Olympic Gold Quest (OCG). Tagged a future world champion, she is indeed the first ever swimmer to have the backing of OGC.
Helping in her cause is irrefutable reputation, even for a teenage girl, and the sacrifices she has made so far. According to reports, the Ahmedabad girl started swimming at seven as a pass-time, just a way to gain some weight because, she was a near anorexic, with limited appetite.
But a lucky enrollment in a swimming class has made her a future star in a country which has hardly tested success in water sports. By 13, she was breaking junior national records.
But her real breakthrough came in the 2012 Senior National Championships, in backstroke events. Age 12, she broke three national backstroke record, thus becoming the first ever Indian swimmer to win all three backstroke events with record time. She is also the winner of the Overall Best Swimmer awards five times in the national meets.
Coach by former international polo water player Kamlesh Nanavati at the Gujarat Vidyapeeth Swimming Centre, the class XI student now hopes to compete with the best in the world, in the biggest stage.
Having said that, the teenager is still some four seconds slower than the Olympic Qualifying Time Standards, B cuts timing of 1:02.36 seconds in her favourite 100 backstroke event.
But after seeing her idols Missy Franklin and Michael Phelps burning the pools in the recent Olympics in a young age, Patel is keeping a realistic target to at least compete in 2020 Tokyo Games, even if she misses the bus to Brazil.
Patel's next stop is at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa this September and the Asian Age Group Championships in Bangkok this October.