It was a tough decision to make. Leaving his parents and swapping all things he knew for an alien country and unfamiliar culture at an early age. But as Likith S.P. rightly puts it, it is all for a bigger cause and the Olympic dream.
“I had just turned 16. It was a tough decision but it was for a good cause. Initially, my parents said no because I had never left them and gone anywhere but later when we had a chat about this, they agreed as it was a good step for me. They also consulted a lot of others including Pradeep (Kumar) sir, Indian and Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre coach, and few others and decided ‘Okay let’s see’. It is for a good purpose,” Likith revealed.
In Durban, South Africa for the past nine months as part of the select few sponsored by JSW Sports Excellence Programme, the 17-year-old took his time to find his feet.
“In the initial four-five months I was stuck in the same timings. There was no improvement and I couldn’t even reach my previous best. Then after the World Championship in Singapore I injured myself and was out for three months. After recovery, I have slowly improved and even clocked a few best times. Atmospheric changes and mindset was all part of it. I had to get adjusted to the school and the swimming facilities. It took some time,” remarked the young swimmer whose next challenge is the Level Three nationals in South Africa.
And it has been a tough ask for the young man. “We stay in Glenwood school and in the morning we train at the school pool and in the evening we go the Seagulls club which is 17 km away. There are five Olympic medallists and few other Olympians who train with us. There are few who are going this year and they give me feedbacks, most of which is that we are on the right track. Education wise, when I’m in school I concentrate on education and when I’m in the pool, swimming is the priority. I think I am balancing it very well,” he stated.
Asked about the difference in training under South African coach Graham Hill and the training he underwent in India, the national level swimmer, who came in third in an Open Gala in Italy behind two Olympic athletes in 200m breast stroke late last year, said, “Here it is more of quantity while there it is about quality. Lesser amount of time but more intense. My swimming technique still remains the same and the only thing they have taught me is how to implement it at the right time. I knew how to do underwaters but they have taught me how to implement it and how to push off the wall to get maximum distance. Improvising and improving is the technique. It’s more of a mental process. Outside India, swimming is completely different. We were nowhere close to them before but now we are improving. Our mindsets are a bit weaker ”
Young as he is, Likith’s driving force still remains the 2020 Olympics and he is leaving no stones unturned to achieve the coveted tag of an Olympian.
“This year is big because there are many big meets where we can take part which are a tune-up for the Olympics and it will be a new challenge and a huge stepping zone for me. The goal is 2020 Olympics. 2018 will be a big year for me. We will be having Commonwealth Games and Asian Games and few other big meets,” said the young Bengalurean who has already roughly mapped out his future.
“Post swimming, I want to do something different. I don’t want to be a doctor or an engineer. Maybe sports medicine,” he added....