While girls of their age prefer to watch movies and have fun, Kanchi Desai, Ananya Panigrahi and Priyanka Priyadarshini have a lot more on their minds. The 13-year-olds will be representing India in swimming at the Commonwealth Games.
Though Kanchi and Ananya don’t have high hopes, they’re taking pride that they will be representing the country at the “mini-Olympics”.
“This is our second international tournament but turning out for India is like playing at the mini-Olympics. This is even more special to us,” says Kanchi, a 400m individual medley swimmer.
Ananya, who will be participating in 200m backstroke, was excited about wearing a sari in the opening ceremony.
The pullout of Australia’s Stephanie Rice, the 400m individual medley world record holder, has left the girls disappointed. “She is an inspiration and I wanted to compete with her since I am in the same event,” says Kanchi with a saddened look, which is shared by Ananya. Kanchi and Ananya have been friends for over four years and train under coach, Tapan Kumar Panigrahi, who is also Ananya’s father.
“Ananya’s current timings are around 2:28 seconds but I expect her to finish at 2.24 seconds, at least. The same goes for Kanchi,” says the coach.
While the two girls idolise Olympic champion Michael Phelps, Priyanka is her own idol. “I don’t idolise anybody, because if I do, I would limit myself,” says Priyanka, who will be competing in 100m and 50m breaststroke.
Confident of winning a medal, Priyanka gave the opening ceremony on Sunday a miss, which was a day before her event. “I wanted to focus on the competition and I can always make up for the miss by seeing the closing ceremony,” she smiles
“My competition is not with the second-best or third-best, rather I am aiming to get past Leisel Jones, the Olympic record holder in 100m breaststroke,” adds Priyanka.
Her coach, Sandeep Tokas, is also positive about her performance. “Though one of the youngest, she is not short on talent. I have seen other countries practicing and observed their timings. Looking at the trend, I think she is the best in her category,” he says.
It is uncertain if these young girls will add to India’s medal tally, but they have already made a mark by being the youngest athletes to represent India at the Games.