Press Trust of India
Stuck in a training centre in locked-down Thailand’s Phuket, ace Indian swimmer Sajan Prakash has found a silver lining in the extra time he is getting to recuperate from an injury amid the gloom of COVID-19 pandemic.
Sajan, who travelled to Phuket in February to train for swimming meets, had hoped to achieve the ‘A’ qualification mark for the Olympics. However, the national record holder has been left stranded in the city following the lockdown in the country.
“I’m in Phuket and I’m safe here,” Sajan told PTI.
Sajan, who is on a scholarship given by the International Swimming Federation (FINA), is staying at the Thanyapura Academy with 18 other swimmers of different nationalities.
“I came here on February 12 to train. I am pretty comfortable here. I am on scholarship from FINA so everything is taken care of. I don’t have to bother about anything.”
The lone male swimmer from the country to compete at the Rio Olympics four years ago, Sajan has already achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark for the Tokyo Games last year in the 200m butterfly event at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. But to be sure of a place in the Games, which have been postponed to next year, he needs to meet the ‘A’ qualification timing of 1:56.48s.
The 26-year-old is coming off a neck injury and is therefore concentrating on doing rehab exercises alongside other dry-land workouts.
“From November to January I had a neck injury – slip disk. I have recovered and I had just started swimming. I was getting some weakness in my hands but I continued training and managed with it.”
“I am doing rehab and breathing exercises. I’m so lucky (on getting time to recover).”
The swimmer from Kerala hasn’t been to a swimming pool for close to a month now. However, the swimmers at the boarding house have come up with an innovative idea to ensure they don’t lose contact with water.
“It’s very difficult to stay away from the pool. I’ve not been in the water since March 17.”
“Coach told us to keep the shoulders moving so we bought an inflatable pool and filled water in it. We then tie one end of a rope to a bar and the other end around us and keep moving our arms inside the water.”
“It is to keep feeling the water. It’s good for the shoulders as it keeps us going and reduces the chances of injury once we get back into the pool.”
In the meantime the national record holder is reworking his plans for the Olympics while also reading about the sport he loves.
“I’m reading a lot, I don’t get to read so much usually so that’s great. I read about swimming and watch movies. I’m also writing down the plans are for the next one year now that the Olympics have postponed.”
The national champion is also taking the opportunity to broaden his horizon by learning about new cultures from his fellow swimmers while also discussing the future with them.
“Learning a lot about different cultures, getting to know different people. We share a good bond. It will also help in the future, we will have better bonds and connections.
“We are bonding right now. We play a lot of games inside the house. Try to make of what’s coming in the future just enjoying,” Sajan said.
Asked if he would fly back to India once travel restrictions are eased, Sajan said he has no plans of going home.
“I think I will continue staying here even when the flights open because its not safe to travel anywhere right now. So it’s better,” he said.
“We don’t know what the situation would be like. Anyway it’s the same whether I’m in India or I’m here.”
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