“These kids are really hard working and want to achieve something. Last year, we managed to put four of them into top eight of National Championships, so, hopefully this time there will be more participants from Odisha who are motivated by last year’s performances and can achieve medals in the Senior Nationals and Junior Nationals this year,” Sejwal said.
Bhubaneswar: Young swimmers from Odisha dazzled at the recently held Thailand Age Group Swimming Championship 2023 by winning six medals in total. The event which was held at the Aquatic Centre, Assumption University Suvarnabhumi Campus in Thailand, witnessed three swimmers from Odisha JSW Swimming High-Performance Centre – Pratyasa Ray, Shristy Upadhaya, and Pavan Gupta finishing on the podium.
Odisha ace swimmer Pratyasa won two silver medals as she finished second in 50m Backstroke event in which she clocked a time of 31.73 seconds. The 20-year-old also finished second in 200m Backstroke, clocking a time of 2:31.51 seconds.
Meanwhile, Shristy Upadhaya clinched three bronze medals as she finished third in 50m Butterfly event by clocking her personal best of 29.09 secs, while in 100m Butterfly event, she recorder her personal best time of 1:04.49 secs to finish third. Shristy also finished third 200m Butterfly event, clocking a time of 2:32.37 secs.
Also, Pavan Gupta, employed with the Railways and trains at Odisha JSW Swimming HPC, bagged a gold medal by finishing first in 50m Freestyle clocking a time of 23.24 seconds.
Notably, a contingent of around 30 young swimmers travelled from India out of which 16 participants were from Odisha. Based out of the Odisha JSW Swimming High-Performance Centre in Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium, the swimmers train under Sandeep Sejwal, an Arjuna awardee and 13-time national champion, who took to full-time coaching after retiring from competitive swimming.
Speaking about the experience gained by the 16 youngsters from Odisha, Sandeep Sejwal said, “It was a new experience as before this we have only travelled with participants who had an exposure to international level. But this was the first time that I was travelling with a group where almost 90 percent of the participants were travelling out of Odisha for the very first time. So, it was a different but nice experience.”
Talking about the Thailand Age Group Swimming Championship 2023, which was an international exposure competition and witnessed the participation of young swimmers from various countries, Sejwal said, “It was part of the training plan because Senior Nationals and Junior Nationals are coming up later this year and ahead of it, we wanted to give exposure to our swimmers so that they can feel the pressure of a competition. I am happy it worked out well with all of them improving their timing.”
Meanwhile, Sejwal also praised Sports and Youth Services Department, Government of Odisha and JSW Sports who collaborated in 2021 to set up a High Performance Centre in swimming and launched a comprehensive Grassroot Program with an aim to develop a robust culture for swimming and produce world-class swimmers from the state.
“Our whole trip to Thailand was sponsored by Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS), which is a JSW entity. Also, from time to time when we have to travel and participate locally, Sports and Youth Services Department has always given us 100 percent support and made all the required arrangements. Moreover, the infrastructure they are providing for training at the HPC and at different districts of Odisha are top notch,” Sejwal said.
Sandeep Sejwal further revealed that since the beginning of the Grassroot Program by Sports and Youth Services Department, Government of Odisha and JSW, more than 100 talented swimmers have been scouted for the competitive team of the state and this time, he is hopeful of Odisha winning medals in Senior and Junior nationals.
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