The Indian Premier League 2020

Swimming to success

Published Jul 11, 2019, 12:07 am IST
Updated Jul 11, 2019, 12:07 am IST
Telangana’s eleven-year-old Bikkina Sai Nihar becomes the first to win gold at a National-level swimming contest.
Bikkina Sai Nihar and his coach John Siddiqui
 Bikkina Sai Nihar and his coach John Siddiqui

Bikkina Sai Nihar had participated in the 36th Junior and Sub-Junior National Swimming competitions, held in Rajkot recently. Participating in the boys’ Group 2 category for the 400 m race, young Sai clocked 4:55:85, beating his closest rival by a few microseconds.

As a child Sai’s father, B.V. Rajesh had a near-death experience when he almost drowned in a well. Memories of this event compelled him to encourage his son to learn swimming. When he was eight, Sai was enrolled in swimming lessons under coach John Siddiqui, former Junior Warrant Officer at the Indian Air Force.
However, when Sai began learning how to swim, coach John felt he was really slow. “I took it upon myself to improve his speed, to make him more confident about himself,” says coach John.


Swimming upstream
But winning didn’t come easily to Sai. “When he was eight years old, Sai won his first medal in swimming. This encouraged him a great deal to take it forward as a passion,” says Rajesh. But there on, Rajesh tells us, Sai participated in four National level competitions without even being able to make it to the final eight.
Though this discouraged him, he never showed his disappointment.

Coach John believes there should be an equal effort by both the parents of a child and the teacher. And just as he worked on his student, Sai’s parents kept offering him constant encouragement and support, which led the little boy to stay level-headed no matter how he fared in a competition. His mother, B. Jyotsna, especially played an integral part in motivating her son.


“But sometimes, knowingly or unknowingly, parents tend to add to the pressure on a child to discouraging them. So also, I keep parents away from a child’s training as sometimes their physical presence also affects a child,” adds the coach.

Power strokes
Incidentally, the 400 m category in swimming is one of the most difficult events. The race requires one to use four strokes: butterfly for the first 100 m, back for the next 100 m, breaststroke for the next 100 m and finally freestyle for the last 100 m.

What made it tougher for young Sai is that the National level competition sees more participation from boys than girls, thus making the boys’ category highly competitive. “There are about 35 participants for a single category in the boys’ group,” says John, explaining the challenges.


Post his win in Rajkot, young Sai awaits selection to the upcoming 10th Asian Age Group Championships 2019 in Bengaluru. The selectors seek talented children short-listed by their performances in the National swimming competition. Meanwhile, Sai continues his training for the annual School Games in Delhi to be held in September.