City’s new Olympians-in-the-making
The Olympics, one of the most celebrated international sports events in the world, started on July 27 in London and concluded on August 12. Back in Mumbai, its euphoria continues to motivate many sportsmen and women pursuing different sports, mainly swimming and badminton, inspiring them to work harder and learn techniques that could help them win more matches for India.
“Participating in the Olympics is the ultimate goal for most sportsmen. Seeing fellow sportsmen break records and push the envelope has fuelled sportsmen in the city with new enthusiasm to perform better in their respective sports,” says Subodh Danke, a swimming coach for 35 years at the Khar Gymkhana. At swimming coaching centres in the city, the mood is upbeat. “Michael Phelps’ four gold and two silver medals at the Olympics have made swimmers in India believe that through hard work they, too, can make their country proud,” Danke says. Compared to last year, Danke says, there is an increase of 20% in students wanting to train at advanced levels to represent India at international swimming championships.
Coach Anand Pardesi, who teaches at a club in Juhu and Andheri says that there has been a 15% rise in the number of students wanting to continue training in swimming after completing basic training. “Many students are usually satisfied with learning basic swimming skills and quit thereafter. But this time, more people have shown interest in training at an advanced level and participating in swimming championships.”
At some badminton coaching centres in the city, the number of new enrolments has almost doubled as compared to last year. Saina Nehwal’s commendable performance has motivated more people to train in badminton, says Jitesh Padukone, badminton coach at the MIG Cricket Club, Bandra. The MIG Cricket Club enrolled 20 students into badminton classes this year as compared to ten last year. The number at the North Indian Association went up to 50 from 30 last year, the same as that of Khar Gymkhana.
Favourite players: Lin Dan, China
‘I just want to win all matches’
Impressed by Lin Dan, an Olympic gold medallist from China, Elphinstone resident Tejas Dhayalkar, 18, is training extra hard to ensure that he improves his speed on the badminton court to win every match. “Lin Dan’s speed and strength helped him bag a gold. I want to learn every trick there is to win more matches,” Dhayalkar says. He has even watched every single badminton match in the Olympics. “Every player has his/her technique and to grasp these one has to watch them play,” says Dhayalakar.
Training since he was nine years old and playing at district and state level competitions, Dhayalakar, son of a schoolteacher mother and a provident-fund officer father, Dhayalakar took a two-year break in 2010 and 2011 to study for his HSC exams. Motivated by Saina Nehwal’s several victories at international tournaments, the prize money, and the acknowledgement given to her and other badminton players by the government in the past year, Dhayalakar was motivated return to the sport. “We spend around Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 on Tejas’s training every month, which is very expensive for people like us. But after watching our players at the Olympics Games, it looks like badminton can be a lucrative career,” says Vilas Dhayalkar, Tejas’s father.
Dhayalkar trains under Mangirish Palekar, a coach of repute, at Matunga Gymkhana. Palekar’s day begins at 5am followed by one-and-a-half hours of strenuous exercise to improve flexibility and build stamina. After attending college, Dhayalkar is on the badminton court at 2.30pm and trains till 4.30pm, six days a week. “The going gets tough but I am determined to continue. What drives me is the wish to play for my country,” Dhayalkar says.
Favourite swimmers: Michael Phelps, US
‘I want to represent India’
Sanya Singh, 12, a resident of Khar has rarely missed seeing any swimming events in this year’s Olympic Games. To keep her company, Sanya’s parents and grandparents watched a few championships with her, encouraging her to discuss the nuances of the sport, which she took to in January, at the Khar Gymkhana, under coach Subodh Danke.
For the past nine months, Sanya’s performance in the pool has rapidly improved and her coach now wants her to start training more aggressively to participate in the district and state-level championships. Inspired by the Olympics and determined to train at an advanced level, Sanya has agreed to follow a diet, which will be suggested by her parents and coach, to improve her performance. She had earlier refused to eat eggs and bananas, rich sources of protein. “I have decided to represent my country and do what it takes to achieve my goal,” Sanya said.
Her favourite swimmer, without doubt, is USA-based Michael Phelps. “He is so fast. I am not good at breaststroke, but after watching him swim at the Olympics, I have decided to work on my breaststrokes.”
Sanya currently swims nine hours a week: Three more hours of training will be added to her schedule in October, when she will have to train at an Olympics-size pool at Chembur.
Having never trained under a professional coach, Sanya’s artist mother Revati was surprised when in April, Sanya participated in the 4,000-metres swimming marathon, which she completed in under two hours. “After training, her legs hurt and sometimes she has to pop a painkiller just to be able to go to school,” Revati says. But Revati isn’t complaining as Sanya has become a happy person, brimming with confidence.”