“Swimming has given me an identity. I have been able to make a living through sport," he says.

From village pond to tournament pools Supriya Mondals incredible journey as a swimming champ
news Indian Athletes Tuesday, August 09, 2016 - 14:53

As Budhia's story recently hit big screen with "Budhia Singh: Born to Run", we take a look at the young runner's life, and that of a few other athletes who hope to represent the country's hopes for sporting success.

As a child, Supriya Mondal used to swim in the village pond for fun. Growing up, he’s left that little pool behind to become a full-time swimmer with national acclaim.

“Swimming has given me an identity today and my family has been very supportive of me pursuing sport from the start. This is the only way forward for me as I have been able to make a living through sport. Everybody back home is proud of me and in fact my younger brother has also taken to swimming,” he says.

Humble beginnings

Supriya was born in a modest family in Shahpur village in West Bengal. His father is a fisherman and mother is a housewife.

Competing in local tournaments propelled him to a national-level swimming meet at the age of 15, where his talent was spotted by the GoSports Foundation, a non-profit organisation working towards the development of Indian athletes.

With their help, Supriya relocated to Bengaluru to train under Dronacharya Awardee Coach Nihar Ameen who has coached Indian swimmers to Olympics and Asian Games medals.

“It was the best decision of my life and I have not looked back since. Swimming has become my life now and the Foundation takes care of my end-to-end living and training requirements,” he says.

Achievements

In 2014, Supriya won five gold medals in 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m butterfly and 200m individual medley at the 41st Junior National Swimming Championship in Bhopal. That year, he also represented India at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, and also won a silver and bronze medal at the 68th Senior National Aquatic Championship held in Kolkata.

A big break came in the form of the 2015 National Games in Kerala, where Supriya won three silver medals and a bronze across different categories.

He won a gold medal and bettered the 'B' qualification mark for the 2016 Olympics at the 59th Malaysian Open Swimming Championships in Selangor, Malaysia; setting a new national record of 2:00.54s in 200m butterfly event.

Sports in India

Supriya feels that India has a lot of catching up to do in terms of taking the sport to an international standard. A country like the USA has over 300,000 competitive swimmers while India has about 8,000, he says.

“This gives you a fair idea of how despite such a huge population, we actually have a very narrow talent pool in our country to choose from. Also we barely have any Olympic standard pools across the country, and need to install many more of these across various locations to groom more future Olympians in swimming.” 

Future goals

Training with some of the best swimmers in the country, such as Sandeep Sejwal and Virdhawal Khade inspires him to give his very best in every session. Supriya has also found an understanding coach in Nihar Ameen who encourages him to train hard and not worry about results.

With winning, also comes losing and the young swimmer recognizes its value as well. “To be successful, you have to accept failure but it is imperative to learn from it. I always try to take failure in my stride and remain determined to be successful at what I do.”

So while Supriya is content with his success till date, he also wants to replicate similar achievements at senior levels internationally. “At 19, I am still learning and have a long way to go. I try to improve every time I compete and my sole focus right now is to win a medal at the Asian Games in 2018. I narrowly missed out on qualification for the Olympics but with time on my side, I hope I can progress one step at a time,” he says. 

(This interview was carried out with the assistance of GoSports Foundation. The non-profit trust currently supports 50 athletes, mainly under the Rahul Dravid Athlete Mentorship Programme and the Para Champions Programme. Apart from this, they also have Shooting and Badminton Scholarships under which they support some of the next generation of India's top talents.)

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