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Sayani Das is a prominent long-distance swimmer from West Bengal. She crossed the English Channel in 2017 at the age of 18 only. Then she participated in the 19.7 km open water Rottnest Channel Swim in 2018. It is highly regarded worldwide and one of Western Australia’s iconic events that begin at Cottesloe Beach and culminates at Rottnest Island. In 2019, Das swam across the Catalina Channel in the US. Stretching between Santa Catalina Island and Los Angeles in California, the Catalina Channel is 21 miles long and is comparable to the English Channel in terms of distance and turbulent water conditions.
Then in 2022, Sayani became the first long-distance swimmer from Asia and India to have won another grueling battle. She achieved crossing Molokai Channel in the Hawaiian Islands. Having already won the English Channel, Rottnest Channel, and Catalina Channel, Sayani has added another feather to her crown with her latest triumph.
Sayani Das: The Beginning
Sayani Das, the 23-year-old girl is a resident of Baruipara village in Kalna, West Bengal. Sayani was initiated into swimming by her father, Radheshyam Das when she was a mere kid. While training her, Das, headmaster of a primary school in Kalna, discovered she is a natural swimmer who took swimming like a duck to water and was a quick learner. Realizing her potential, he admitted her to the local club for coaching under professional instructors. Since then, her rigorous training began in the local swimming club under the watchful eyes of her trainers. When she was barely nine years old, she participated in her first major swimming competition, which was swimming a 10-kilometer stretch in the Ganga.
The competition was flagged off and it was a time for high tide in the Ganga and the drift increased gradually making it extremely difficult for the young girl to swim. People still remember how the security boats that accompanied the swimmers, urged her to give up and get back onto the boat. But the little girl, her head barely visible in the water, bobbing up and down under the waves, was determined to complete the stretch and she did so, although she was the last one to reach the shore. This was a turning point for Das, who was now determined to take up long-distance swimming.
Despite having achieved such a rare feat of winning the Molokai Channel, Sayani has not received any financial grant from the government or swimming federation, or even the state swimming association.
“I received only a Rs 3 lakh financial grant from the state government after winning the English Channel six years ago. However, my total expenditure to cross any channel goes nearly Rs 10 to 15 lakhs. My father had borrowed our house against the mortgage. I have been compelled to join a job in the private sector. Although my office helps me a lot, I train in the evening after completing my office job. I am indebted to Surajit Bakshi and Sushil Mishra who always come forward with financial assistance.”
The Aim of Sayani Das
Sayani is now preparing herself to cross Cook Strait and North Channel. Sayani has recently received permission from New Zealand Open Water Swimming Association to swim in Cook Strait next year. It covers 26 kilometers between New Zealand’s north and south islands. She has also planned to complete the 34-kilometer North Channel between Ireland and Scotland in the same next year. She said,
“Among these two, North Island Channel seems quite tougher mainly due to its chilled weather. The sea temperature goes down below 10 degrees Celsius. Besides, there are so many other obstructions like sharks and violent jellyfish. The undercurrent in the sea will also be a major hurdle to cross. Crossing 48 kilometers in Molokai Channel was extremely difficult. North Island is also going to be the same I feel.”