A long list of achievements belies the fact that Niranjan Mukandan had a difficult childhood filled with medical surgeries. His journey is from being virtually paralyzed to becoming one of India’s decorated para-swimmer. Now an Eklavya awardee, he was born with a medical condition spina bifida and clubbed feet, making it unable for him to even stand up. His true comfort zone was water, he discovered, when the doctor referred him to aqua therapy. “I started walking when I was in the pool. I felt like a fish in the water!” Niranjan says in an interview exclusively to Sportswallah.
First steps towards success
Bangalore-based swimming coach John Christopher spotted the talent in Niranjan. “Three months after I started swimming, the head coach spotted me and claimed that I had more potential than for aqua therapy. My first national competition was five months after I started swimming, and I won a silver medal. And then there was no looking back,” Niranjan narrates about how it all began.
Like it is for most athletes, Niranjan received constant support from two quarters. “My parents are definitely my pillar of strength, and my coach, who believed in me and made me what I am today,” he says. Jolly by nature, Niranjan finds inspiration everywhere. “There is always something to learn and a scope of improvement even at the elite level.” As motivating factors, he counts the book The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr Joseph Murphy, Mary Kom the film, and looks up to Rahul Dravid and Michael Phelps as role models.
Presently, Niranjan’s tally of medals stands at over 44 for international ones where he’s represented India, and over 75 national medals representing Karnataka. “Currently, I am training to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. And eventually, I would like to start my own academy to help the next generation of athletes to pursue their dream,” Niranjan signs off.
• 10 medals at the 2015 IWAS World Junior Games in Netherlands, entering the Limca Book of Records for winning the most medals in one edition
• National Award for Best Sportsperson of the year, 2015
• Eklavya Award, 2016