Bengaluru: “It means a lot...honestly…” Shivani Kataria’s statement trails away as she tries to find words to express her feelings. She shrugs and laughs.
Without answering the question she conveys exactly what she feels.
The question in itself was rather simple. How do you feel now that you will be known as an Olympian going forward? It’s been around two weeks since the 18-year-old Shivani was chosen by the Swimming Federation of India to represent the country at the Rio Olympics under the Universality criteria. A long way from when she began as an eight-year-old swimming in a summer camp because her cousin used to.
Being the lone Indian woman to have taken part in the World Championship, she was the only candidate among the women who had fulfilled the required eligibility criteria to head to Rio.
“I had a meet in Hong Kong and I was at the airport with Sajan when he got a text saying that you both have been selected (for Rio). I was like I will take it as 90 percent. I wasn’t 100 percent (sure) but at least my name is there. Then the next day I got to know. I was so happy, I was on top of the world,” she says.
Being part of a FINA scholarship, Shivani had been training in Phuket for the last year and the youngster was well aware of what lay ahead and the sacrifices required from her to even have a sniff at getting to where she wanted to go.
“I was in FINA targeting Rio camp in Thanyapura and we had a lot of swimmers from other countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives. Everyone was focused on one thing over there and it was really good to have that kind of atmosphere and we really trained hard,” she revealed.
“We were swimming thrice a day when there was no meet and then doing dry land exercises. I had never swam thrice a day before. It was like wake up, train, sleep, eat, train, eat, dry land training and train again,” remarked the freestyler.
The Haryana swimmer will take part in the 200M freestyle event next month and heading into the biggest event of her career, Shivani has a realistic outlook.
“To be realistic it’s very difficult to get into the top-16 so I don’t want to have an unrealistic aim. I want to do the B qualifying time which is two minutes three seconds. My best is two minutes four seconds,” said the 18-year-old.
“I want to inspire young swimmers because the last female swimmer (from India) who went to the Olympics was in 2004. A lot of swimmers are also making B cut now. I think surely in 2020 there will be a lot of swimmers going to the Olympics from India,” she signed off with a smile and the dream of watching her idols Katie Ledecky and Cameron Macevoy in action.