August 2, 2016 12:30 AM NPT
By: Prajwal Oli
Swimmer Sirish Gurung in action in this file photo.
KATHMANDU, Aug 2: “My biggest dream as an athlete has finally been materialized,” said teenage swimmer Sirish Gurung few days ago during a program in the capital. The 17-year old was referring to the Rio Olympics starting from Friday, where he will be competing in the 100 m freestyle.
Another teenager Gaurika Singh will be competing in women's 100 m breaststroke. Both Sirish and Gaurika booked their tickets for Rio through universality place.
Swimming is scheduled to take place at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro from August 6 to 13. “I will try my best to raise the level of Nepali swimming in Rio,” Sirish told Republica before leaving for Rio on Sunday. Sirish holds national record in the 100 m freestyle with a timing of 58.22 seconds.
Just like other athletes of Nepal, Sirish does not have big dreams of winning medals in Rio and in his own words it is impossible to win medal with the infrastructure and training available in Nepal.
“Olympics is a huge and global sports meet with very tough competitions. I will try to finish my event with better timing and raise the level of Nepali swimming,” said Sirish, who currently holds 14 national records under his belt. He has broken the national record 45 times in the last three years.
It has been 12 years since Sirish started swimming at a tender age of five. His parents have been the inspiration behind his love for the sport.
Sirish is one of the two Nepali swimmers competing in Rio. Altogether seven players from five games, including two each from athletics and swimming and one each from judo, taekwondo and archery will represent Nepal in the Olympics.
Prior to the Olympics, Sirish attended a year-long training in Phuket, Thailand, which concluded on May 27 earlier this year. Sirish says the training sponsored by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has helped him a lot to improve his level. “Of course, the training was really fruitful for me to improve my personal timing,” he said. “It was a centralized training with all facilities required for a professional swimmer. The training was the key behind my improved performance in South Asian Games (SAG).”
The last edition of SAG held in February was the first occasion that any male Nepali swimmer made it to the final rounds in swimming. Though Sirish was near to grabbing a medal in men's 400 m individual medley, he finished fourth. He had also competed in 200 m individual medley and freestyle in SAG.
Since returning home from Phuket, Sirish has been training under coaches Ongden Lama and Ishwar Kari. Karki has left for Rio along with Sirish.
Karki also said that he was focused on improving the level of Nepali swimming. “Sirish holds the national record of 58.22 seconds in 100 m freestyle and our aim will be to achieve better timing than this,” Karki said. He also lamented on the lack of infrastructure in the country. “We could not have round-the-year training due to lack of swimming pool with heating system in the country. How can one expect medal with just five or six months of training,” Karki said.
Sirish has the experience of playing at numerous international swimming competitions including the 2014 Asian Games (South Korea), 2015 FINA World Championship (Russia), 2015 Dubai World Cup among others.
Gaurika to join team in Rio
Gaurika Singh, who broke Nepal's medal drought in international swimming in individual event during the 12th South Asian Games in February, will join Nepal's swimming team in Rio.
Gauriak, who has been living with her parents in London, United Kingdom, is likely to be the youngest player of Rio Olympic among 10,000 plus athletes.
According to a Facebook post of Nilendra Raj Shrestha, the convener of Nepal's Olympics Preparation Committee, he received an email from Ian Chadband, the sports writer of Olympic News Service which states that she could be the youngest athletes among all participants of the Rio Olympics.
“I'm very keen, if possible, to talk to your young swimmer Gaurika Singh, because we believe that she could be the youngest competitor to take part in the Rio Games,” Shrestha quoted Chadband in his Facebook post.
Gaurika has been training at Copthall Swimming Club under coaches Rhys Gormley and Christine Green. She became the first Nepali player to win individual medal in the SAG swimming in February winning four medals. She claimed silver in 200 m individual medley and bronze medals in 200 m and 100 m backstroke and 400 m freestyle.
She has competed in FINA World Championship in Kazan, Russia and FINA Swimming World Cup in Dubai last year. Gaurika holds 10 national records under her belt.
Coach Ishwar Karki is very much optimistic about Gaurika's performance and expects high performance from her. “She is very young and her timing is very good. I think she could achieve place for next Olympics qualifying time, which none of the Nepali athletes have done so far,” Karki said.