Niranjan Mukundan qualifies for World Para Swimming C'ships
Indian para-swimmer Niranjan Mukundan has qualified for World Para-Swimming Championships, scheduled to be held in London this year
He won a gold medal in the 200m Individual Medley and a silver in the 50m Butterfly category at the World Series 2019 in Brazil.
Mukundan, who has undergone 17 major surgeries since birth, took up swimming as part of acqua therapy to strengthen his legs and have a normal life. In an exclusive interview with ANI, the player said, "Once I got into the water, I felt like a fish. I started swimming a lot and tapping the hands in the water. I think that is how I started swimming. Kids usually take 15-20 days to learn but I learned in 10 days so that motivated me and got me into water sport."
"It was around 2003 when I had just started. Six months down the lane, one of the coaches named John Christopher spotted me and said this kid has more potential and should put into para swimming. I took part in my first nationals in Mumbai and won a silver medal there," he said.
Based on disability in the men's group there are categories for physical, intellectual disability and for people who are blind. Mukundan specializes in butterfly and freestyle swimming.
"We swim according to our categories, disability, and caliber. Now I rank 14 in the world and third in India. I hope to come in top 10 in the world by the end of this year," he said. In December 2018, Mukundan suffered an ankle injury and underwent a major surgery, which forced him out of practice for almost two months. With the World Championship and Para Olympics next year, he said,
"This year is very important for me because the World Championship is coming up and next year we have Para Olympics and Olympics. It is important for me to get back in shape. My coach and I had a deep discussion to see what we can do. After my surgery, we had mental conditioning done for me. When I got in the pool, I was mentally fit and knew I can do it. We had good two and a half to three months training session."
"When I went to the World Series 2019 in Brazil, there was only one goal and one hope that I had to qualify for both World Championship and Para Olympics. I am happy with my performance as I qualified for the World Championship with best times of mine. For Para Olympics concerned, I have clocked the B qualifying time and I am fractioned away from the A qualifying time, which I am hoping to achieve probably by mid this year or at the World Championship," he said.
Being the only player to be qualified from Karnataka, Mukundan is planning to qualify in another couple of events as well in the coming months and added, "I should be swimming around four events at the World Championship."
Mukundan, who clocked 33.5 seconds in the 50m butterfly, is hopeful to achieve 32.9 seconds, which is the qualification time. Expressing his gratitude for family and coach Christopher, he said, "Family has been the pillar of support for me and I have never got a no from them. Under my coach, I have 46 international medals. I even want to thank Go Sports Foundation for supporting me for almost 7-8 years now."
"The government of Karnataka is supporting us with some good cash rewards and other support that we need. With their support, I approached for abroad training and went to Thailand to train for the last two years and got some expertise access as well. Even Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) is very supportive in sending entries," he said.
Coach Christopher said initially Mukundan was playful but he tried him for one state championship and went for nationals, where Mukundan did well.
"I spoke to his parents to put him at a higher level based on his potential and started training him right from then. We have been on and off with practice as he is very prone to injury. He showed potential and commitment to training. I did not want to leave him and he started winning medals in national level," he said.
"We tried to push him in Asian Games held in Gonzo where he was in a team and won a bronze. We discussed World Championships and Para Olympics and he was pumped up. He has a long way to go. I have a feeling he will qualify for Olympics 2020 and qualification might happen in forthcoming World Championships," Christopher said.
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