In 2005, at my 1st international competition, all my teammates made it to the podium or the top 5. I was the only person who finished 9th, 10th and 13th in the three events I swam in. If I had quit after failing in 2005, I wouldn’t be giving this interview.”
And today, at just 28, Sandeep Sejwal is the senior national champion and Indian National Record-holder in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke. He’s contested in the men’s 100m and 200m breaststroke events at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. To add to that, he’s won two silver medals at the Asian Indoor Games in 2007. Sandeep is also a recipient of the Arjuna Award.
The Making of India’s Very Own Aquaman
Sandeep opens up to us and shares his personal story about how he was pushed to take his first shot, or in this case, his first stroke at swimming. Sandeep lost his father at a very young age, and his mother, a housewife, who had to look after Sandeep and his sister, made sure to keep them busy so that they wouldn’t waste their time doing stuff they shouldn’t. That’s when the swimming classes started. After joining swimming Sandeep was hooked onto it and there was no getting him out of the water after that.
Since my childhood days, I have been always inclined towards sports.”
Not many people know this but swimming is one of the most physically demanding sports out there. You’ve got to be in amazing physical shape to be able to “swim with the big fish” which, as we can see, Sandeep is definitely in. He trains for almost 6-7 hours a day and up to one year before a really big competition. Sandeep confesses that if something went wrong before a big swim, after training so hard and for so long, he would feel depressed and heartbroken, and would even think of quitting. But his love for the water would push him to get back into the pool with the hope that his next race would go better.
Training for the 2008 Beijing Olympics was a herculean task, Sandeep admits. Three months of grueling training in Australia was the longest training cycle he ever had outside India. Once he qualified, he went to the US for his final phase of training. “Training with the swimmers of Australia and the US was very challenging and it helped me break a lot of barriers I had developed in my mind over the years.” Barriers, and records, might we add!
My mother is definitely my biggest inspiration. If I can do only half of what she has done I would be proud of myself.”
Apart from having the unconditional support of his mother, Sandeep considers himself lucky to have Nihar Ameen for a coach, who has given him the right kind of push to become what he is today.
Sandeep plans to start coaching other young and talented swimmers once he’s reached the peak of his swimming career. He would like to impart all the expert knowledge and experience that he has gained over the years to the swimmers of tomorrow and help them bring out their inner sharks.
“Patience to excel in sports doesn’t come overnight. It takes years of hard work and dedication and there is a possibility that even after all that you may fail, but never give up on trying again.” Because when the rest of the world was collecting degrees and entering the corporate jungle, Sandeep was boldly earning medals, rewards and, above all, true happiness from traversing the path of water, making waves everywhere he went.