Here are the 7 best Indian Swimmers you may not know about…
Swimming is one of the five original games in the Olympics, being a part of the same since its inception in 1896. Professional swimmers have great admiration in the world due to their unique abilities. As far as the Olympics are concerned, the USA is far ahead of all the other countries, having won 256 golds combining all the categories. In fact, the greatest Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps is also an American who has won 28 Olympic medals in his 5 Olympics appearances.
The man was literally superhuman in his ability to take the lead on turns with extended underwater dolphins. Everyone has heard the name, if not watched him swim at least once in life. But the music stops when we talk about our nation’s performance in the sport. It is not that Indians have not performed at the biggest stages, but the fact that we are unaware of the Indian swimmers brings guilt along with the shame.
The Swimming Federation of India is the governing body responsible for administration and promotion of swimming in India. Here are some of the best Indian swimmers of all-time who gave it all they had for the nation.
We will start off the list with one of the greatest Indian swimmers of all-time, Shamsher Khan, born in 1933. He is the first Indian Swimmer in the Olympics, achieving the feat in the 1956 Summer Olympics. This came as no surprise after he made a national record in the 200-meter butterfly event in 1954. Also in the year 1955, Shamsher became the first to break the then existing national record at the national meet in Bangalore. A member of the Indian National Army, Shamsher also participated in the 1962 Indo-China war and 1971 Indo-Pak war. Khan soon retired in 1973 after all his achievements in both army and swimming. The legend died on 15 October 2017.
Another great swimmer of early India, Arti Saha was a long-distance swimmer. Born in British Indian West Bengal’s capital city of Calcutta on September 1940, she started swimming at the young age of four. In 1959, Saha became the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel. This came after getting inspired from Indian swimmer Mihir Sen who went short of luck in doing the same. She is also the first Indian female athlete to be conferred with the Padma Shri Award in 1960. The legendary women left the world on 23 August 1994.
Born on 30 November 1989, Bhakti Sharma is an Indian Open water swimmer. She is the youngest woman ever to set a record in open swimming in the Antarctic waters. Also making her the first Asian women to achieve the feat. Sharma swam 2.3 km in 41mins 14secs in freezing water at a temperature of 1°C. Bhakti has successfully broken the record of Lynne Cox (USA) and Lewis Pugh (Great Britain), after swimming in all the five oceans of the world. Apart from the five oceans, she has also swum in the eight other channels and seas. Owing to her extraordinary feats, Bhakti is also a recipient of the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award.
Viradhawal Khade is probably the best known modern Indian Swimmer. Hailing from Kolhapur, Maharashtra, Virdhawal is an Arjuna Awardee of 2011. He represented India in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, competing in the men’s 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle swimming events. Although he did his best setting a new Indian national record in the 100 m Freestyle, Khade couldn’t qualify for the further rounds. In 2010, India won the first Olympic medal in 24 years, thanks to Virdhawal’s bronze in the 50m butterfly category.
Hailing from Bengaluru, Shikha Tandon is a champion swimmer born on 20 January 1985. Tandon has as many as 146 national awards and 36 international decorations in worldwide rivalries to her name including 5 gold medals. Shikha is also the first Indian swimmer to qualify for two separate events in Olympic competition. She competed in both the 50m as well as 100m freestyle at the 2004 Athens Olympics. In fact, the Arjuna Awardee is also the first woman to hold 7 national records at a time. Apart from swimming, Tandon completed her dual master’s degree in Biology and Biotechnology from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio after completing her bachelors from the Bangalore University. She is now the Science Program Lead at US Anti-doping Agency (USADA) in Colorado Springs, USA.
Sandeep Sejwal is the National Record-holder in the 50 m, 100 m and 200 m Breaststroke events. Born on 23 January 1989, the 30-year-old won silver medals at the Asian Indoor Games in 2007 in the 50 m as well as the 100 m Breaststroke events. Sandeep was also a part of the Indian squad in the 100 m and 200 m breaststroke events at the 2010 Asian Juniors. Although he failed to get to the finals in both the events, Sejwal brought the nation proud after claiming the Bronze medal in the 50 Breaststroke in the 2014 Asian Games.
Sajan Prakash is famously known as the ‘Michael Phelps’ of India. Born on 14 September 1993, he represented India at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 200m butterfly race. This came after Prakash overwhelmed everyone winning 6 gold and 3 Silver medals at the 2015 National Games in Kerala. The 26-year old has also won 1 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze in the Asian Age Group at Tashkent in 2017. He is currently training with the Railways team in Bengaluru.