“It’s all about getting a good feel of the water, and then enjoying and going with the flow,” Sharath Gayakwad says exclusively to Sportswallah. A para-swimming champion-turned-coach, Sharath’s journey has come full circle, where he’s grooming younger talent to keep their eyes on the prize. Bengaluru based, he was born with a congenital deformity on his left arm, but clearly, it hasn’t deterred the 27-year-old who represented India at the 2012 Paralympics in London.
On your mark…
Sharath’s introduction to the pool happened when swimming was made mandatory for all students of his school. “I was a bit scared initially as it was an unfamiliar environment. But the coaches at PM Swimming Centre were extremely supportive and made sure I was comfortable. And in time, I fell in love with water. As a kid it was all about fun,” he remembers his early days.
Swimming began as a fitness activity, and thanks to encouragement from the coaches and teachers, Sharath began participating in Inter-class, school and club competitions. “In 2002, I was informed about competitions conducted for differently-abled persons. It was then that I started training seriously. In 2003, I made it to my first para-nationals and won four gold medals. That gave me a lot of motivation to train harder. I then decided to take it up professionally when I was about 15-16 years old, I am glad to still be in this profession,” Sharath recollects.
Through the years, it has been a roller coaster ride, Sharath says, with several good days and some bad. “Sometimes you don’t even know what’s going on. But it’s part of the career,” he says understandingly. Taking baby steps as a start to sprinting a 100m dash to having enough juice to swim for 15 years – Sharath is charged up. “Swimming professionally, I had a single target in mind –the Paralympics. And no matter how tough it got, I always gave my 100 % at every training session and every race,” Sharath talks of his dream.
Through his journey, Sharath drew inspiration from many quarters. “My coach John Christopher is the mastermind behind my swimming. 5-time Olympic champion, Australian swimmer Ian Thrope is the most inspirational to me, as are Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. And I’ve met and share experiences with Rahul Dravid through GoSports Foundation which has been immensely supportive.” Sharath talks of his journey. “Currently, I am coaching about 60 kids, including 14 para swimmers; we’re targeting Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.” Here’s wishing everyone good luck!
- Represented India at the 2012 in Paralympics in London
- 6 medals (Indian record) at the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon (Korea)
- Arjuna Awardee in 2015, for outstanding sporting achievements