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Expecting 12-14 medals at Asian Para Games, says Para Swimming chairman VK Dabas following national championships


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The National Para-Swimming Championships, organized in Udaipur over three days between March 27-29, serve as a qualification for the Asian Para Games. 

 

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Suyash Jadhav (3rd from L) made a national record in 50m back stroke and 100m back stroke at the 2022 National C'ship.(Instagram/suyashjadhav1)

 

 


The 21st National Para-Swimming Championship, organized by Narayan Seva Sansthan in association with the Paralympic Committee of India concluded on March 28. The event was inaugurated by multiple-Paralympics medallist Devendra Jhajharia and Tokyo Paralympic gold medallist Krishna Nagar, and was concluded by Gulab Chand Kataria and Raghuveer Singh Meena. This championship witnessed participation from over 400 paralympic swimmers of the country.

Talking about the event in an exclusive conversation with the Hindustan Times, VK Dabas, chairman of Para Swimming (Paralympic Committee of India) was impressed with the turnout and added that it was an increase from last year's championship, where Covid-19 forced a lower participation. Dabas added that they are striving for more participation from the lower-tier cities and villages.

“We saw over 400 participants across different categories in the championships this year. Last year (national championship in Bengaluru), the participation was less due to Covid-19 situation, but usually, we have numbers in surplus of 400 every time we organize the championships,” Dabas told Hindustan Times.

“A large number of these players are coming from cities. We are raising awareness across the lower-tier cities and villages as well. Once we reach there, I believe we will have a lot more players in the championships.”

‘Expecting 12-14 medals at Asian Para Games’

The National Championships also served as a qualification for the Asian Para Games – scheduled to take place in Hangzhou in China between October 9-15 later this year. In the previous edition of the tournament, India won 8 medals in para-swimming and Dabas expects the country to breach double figures in the upcoming edition.

“I am expecting 12-14 medals at the Asian Para Games. The qualification timings are not announced yet. But once they are announced, I believe we can expect over 30 para-swimmers to qualify,” said Dabas.

Dabas further opened up on the support for para-sports following India’s stellar outing in the Paralympics. While the Para Swimming (PCI) chairman revealed that consistent national camps are important for India to better their performances in Paralympics, Dabas insisted that national championships are definitely aiding in India “unearthing new talents.”

“Organising the national camps every year is very essential for that (medals at Paralympics). When the Asian Para Games took place in 2018, we had a national camp. Yes, we organize the national championships every year but regular national camps are important. Things are definitely looking up, though. We are unearthing new talents every year,” said Dabas.

“The last year’s Paralympic Games did a very good job at raising awareness about para-sports. The government’s support has been very important and they take a very keen interest in the welfare of our para-athletes. I was there during the Paralympics in Tokyo last year and I saw PM Narendra Modi personally wishing the players after they had won medals. That sort of encouragement is very important.

“I have also seen how other big countries like the US prepare for these events. They are very professional in their approach. They have experts to cater to athletes’ all needs, like masseurs and physios, among many other individuals. The game is evolving a lot as well; there is a relentless use of data and analytics in para-swimming too. This is where we want to improve.”

NADA officers present throughout the championship

Dabas revealed that officers from National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) were also present throughout the three-day championships, and they intend to make the players more aware of the usage of medicines and drugs.

“Throughout the event, I had been consistently announcing on the mic that players, as well as their families need to be more aware about the supplements and medicines they are consuming. The knowledge of drugs is significantly limited and we are helping the players be aware about it. In fact, the officers of NADA were also present throughout the event this time,” said Dabas.

International Championships in mind

In a major development for para-swimming in India, Dabas also revealed that there are plans to organize India’s first-ever international para-swimming championships. The tournament is likely to be in association with the Narayan Seva Sansthan.

“We are planning on hosting India’s first-ever international para-swimming championship – the Indian Open International Para-Swimming Championships. The Narayan Seva Sansthan had been very upfront in providing all the aid to help organize the championships. It will likely take place in either in 2023 or 2024,” told Dabas.

On his association with the NGO, Dabas said, “I have known them for over 5 years now. They have been contributing phenomenally towards the benefit of people with disabilities for many years, and they were very interested in contributing to para-sports as well. In 2017, we had organised a similar level of championships in association with them.

In a release, Prashant Agarwal, the global president of the Narayan Seva Sansthan stated that a sports academy will also be launched to help in the training of para-athletes.

A still from the National Para Swimming C'ships.(National Para-Swimming C'ships)

 

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A still from the National Para Swimming C'ships.(National Para-Swimming C'ships)

“The three-day extravaganza went phenomenally well. Being in sync with the ethos we stand for, the event was organized to empower visually impaired, intellectually disabled and physically handicapped players from across the nation. Teams from 23 states and an army team participated in this national swimming competition. In which 383 players displayed swimming skills in different categories. The winners of this event are now heading for the Para Asian Games 2022, to be held in China.”

“Furthermore, our Sports Academy would soon start work for the training of differently-abled players”, he said.

Team Maharashtra champions at National C'ships

The Maharashtra team were the title-holders of the 2021/22 para-swimming championships with 306 points.

“While in the sub-junior category, Vyom Pava (Gujarat) and Riya Patil (Maharashtra) in the girls' category won the Best Swimmer Award. Similarly, Tejas Nand Kumar (Karnataka) in junior category, Annapureddy (Andhra) in senior category and Sadhna Mullick (Rajasthan) in girls' category were declared the best swimmers," Dabas said in the release.

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