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29 Mar 2011
“My dream is to qualify for the Olympics in London in 2012” - Anshul Ketan Kothari

Anshul with Gujarat CM Narendra Modi

Anshul Kothari, son of Sushma and Ketan Rasiklal Kothari became the first Palanpuri to be selected to represent India at an international swimming competition when he was chosen to be a part of the Indian Swimming team at the Commonwealth Games, 2010 at New Delhi, and subsequently for the Asian Games in China as well.

A late entrant to the sport, Anshul won his first medal about eight years ago, and since then has gone from strength to strength, 

Currently studying to be a computer engineer, Anshul is keen to achieve greater glory in the swimming pool also.

The star swimmer talks to Stephen Rego, Editor, Palanpur Online

When did you first start swimming? How did you begin participating in competitions?
I only started swimming at the age of nine when I happened to enrol for swimming classes at a summer vacation camp in Surat. At the end of the camp, the coach told me that he thought that I had the ability to become a good swimmer and he encouraged me to continue practising and to think about participating in competitions.

A little over a year later, at the age of 11, I took part in the School National Games in 2001. I came 5th in my event and this motivated me to look at swimming more seriously and begin regular training as well.

When did you win your first award?
My first award came in 2003 at the Open Sea Swimming competition (covering a distance of 6 km) in the Arabian Sea.  It was organised by the Indian Navy (OSSC) in Mumbai.

Later I won back to back gold medals in 23rd and 24th Veer Savarkar All-India sea swimming competition, Chorwad in 2004 and 2006 (both with new records for a distance of 39 km) in Arabian Sea.

By the time I was in the Std XI, there was a lot of improvement in my timings and I started winning medals regularly.

During the Commonwwealth Games

Who are the people who have helped you reach this point in your career?
My coaches and parents, school and college have supported me at all times. In 2006-07 while in Std XI, I attended a one-month long training camp at the state level for young swimmers. It was here that I learnt a lot and was encouraged to aim higher.

I got a further boost in 2009 when I was selected for the international camp in South Africa. The coaches there gave us lots of useful guidance and tips.

How did it feel to win a medal at the National Games?
This was a very special occasion for me and it was a pretty good feeling. I was the first swimmer from Gujarat to win a medal at the Senior Swimming National Championships (held in 2008) in the last 30 years. 

Personally for me the achievement was all the more important, because I had taken a one and a half year break for my Std XII exams in 2007 and so was coming back to competitive swimming after a big gap. So I did not have any expectations when I went to the Nationals and it was all the more thrilling to win a medal. This medal was an added motivation and also an incentive to concentrate even more on my swimming.

Similarly in February this year I won two medals at the National Games at Ranchi (this is a multi-disciplinary competition, unlike the Swimming Nationals which is only an aquatic event). In this competition, I was the only medal winner from the state. For me it was again extra special since I had taken a break from the rigorous routine of the last few months soon after the Asian Games in November 2010.

What was your feeling when you first heard that you were selected for the Indian team?
It was a matter of great pride for me when I heard that I had been selected for the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and Asian Games in China last year. Though I must add, that after having undergone two rounds of international training as part of the build up towards these events, and seeing the improvement in my timings as a result, I was pretty confident that I would be chosen to don Indian colours.

I must also add that I have benefitted a lot from the experience. The international training both in South Africa and the European tour have given me exposure to the best coaches and also some excellent training facilities. As a result I have learnt a lot and greatly improved my timings and performance.

Anshul with boxer Vijender Singh at the Asian Games

How do you view the future of swimming and swimmers in our country?
I must tell you that being a competitive swimmer in India is not very easy. Unlike in quite a few other sports, there is very little support for this discipline in India. Costs of equipment, training, travel etc are quite high and very few companies come forward as sponsors. While other sportspersons are employed by companies from the private and public sector, receive their salaries and allowances and are also given time off to practise and participate in international events, swimmers in our country have to fend for themselves, and many a promising career is cut short as a result. Unless this attitude and approach changes, India may continue to lag behind in the international swimming arena.

Can you tell us about other sports are you interested in?
I am a keen follower of tennis, Formula One racing and soccer. Unlike many others in our country, I do not have a fascination for cricket as I feel it is a sport that is played by a very few countries and we can hardly call it an international game.

Besides sports, what are your other interests?
I like listening to music – rock music and am keenly interested in computer games. Plus I really love travelling and have enjoyed the opportunity to visit so many places.

Please share your daily practise routine.
Currently we are preparing for the World Championships in July at Shanghai and so I am attending a camp in Bangalore. At the camps we have a clearly defined schedule with 8 hours of training and practise every day. But even when I am not at a camp, I still train regularly – usually about 6-7 hours each day.

What is your ambition? How do you hope to achieve it?
Immediately my dream is to qualify for the Olympics in London in 2012. I think this is achievable under the guidance of our current coach who is really very good and experienced, having earlier worked with the US swimming team. The opportunities i have had earlier for international training in places where facilities are very good, has seen me improve my timings quite significantly, and i do think that qualifying for the Olympics is feasible.

What are your future plans?
I am currently studying for a degree in Computer Science and hope to become a professional in that field as well as to participate in more International Competitions, win more medals and bring glory to our country.

Please share your thoughts on the importance of fitness. What can be done to encourage other members of the community to participate in sports? Your message to the youth of the community.
If you are seriously interested in doing well in sports, then start taking part and also doing serious training from an early age. Find a good coaching centre, and if you have the talent, you should aim to be a competitive sportsperson by the age of 17 or 18.

Start young and be focused, that is my message to all.

Click here to read earlier News Reports of Anshul's achievements



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