Subodh Danke shines in pool of dreams

Veteran swimming coach, who was recently awarded the Shiv Chhatrapati award for service to the sport, had to quit competing due to two accidents

Mumbai: Subodh Danke has no regrets in life. This, despite him having to cut short a promising swimming career in which he won 11 national titles, because of not one, but two accidents that occurred in similar fashion.

Shiv Chhatrapati awardee swimming coach Subodh Danke with his wards at the Khar Gymkhana last week. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Shiv Chhatrapati awardee swimming coach Subodh Danke with his wards at the Khar Gymkhana last week. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar 

Danke received the Shiv Chhatrapati Award — the highest accolade instituted by the Government of Maharashtra — for excellence in coaching in Pune recently. Days later, the renowned swimming coach was rewarded with the lifetime achievement award by the Greater Mumbai Amateur Aquatic Association on the final day of the Khar Gymkhana's 8th Open Marathon Swim Gala.

Host of champions
Since 1986, Danke, a coach of the Khar Gymkhana team has produced many national and international swimmers like 2010 Commonwealth Games participant Aditi Dhumatkar, Rutuja Bhatt, Monique Gandhi, Avintika Chavan, among others.

A former swimmer and water polo player, Danke won 11 nationals representing Maharashtra and Indian Railways and began coaching school kids at Shivaji Park's Mahatma Gandhi swimming pool in 1980. But things changed dramatically for Danke in 1986 when he met with an accident, after his scooter collided with a car, resulting in a fractured right leg.

"My career as a player was cut short by this accident. I knew it was not possible to get back to competitive swimming again as this sport requires a lot of stamina and physical fitness," said Danke, who unfortunately met with a second accident in 1995 — again a scooter-car collision — this time resulting in a hip fracture.

But that didn't stop him from pursuing his passion. "Swimming was my passion. I always wanted to stay connected with this sport. So, I shifted my attention totally towards coaching. I began taking coaching seriously and read many books on training," said the Central Railway employee, who took voluntary retirement from his job to focus fully on coaching.

Danke (61) trains 50 to 60 swimmers daily at the Khar Gymkhana. Talking about the sport's current state of affairs in the country, Danke said: "There is a lot of enthusiasm among kids about swimming. But, the drop-out rate is very high among students in Class IX and X because they have to focus on academics.

But things are changing and people are realising the importance of this sport as many swimmers from India have qualified major events like the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. But there's still a long way to go."

Supportive wife
Danke is grateful to his wife Sunita, who has ensured he continues to devote maximum time to coaching. "She understands my passion for swimming and never complains about me not spending enough time with her."

Danke however feels a bit sad that his daughters, Sangeeta and Sumedha, did not take up swimming professionally. "I could not do much with my daughters. But, I made sure they at least knew to swim and took part in inter-school tournaments," said Danke, whose daughters are now married.

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