Sharath Gayakwad has come a long way. From being forced into learning a life-saving skill to falling in love with that sport and earning record breaking medals for the country. Yes, Sharath became the first Indian to win six medals in a multi-disciplinary sport event at the Asian Para-games in Incheon, South Korea in 2014 ; breaking the record of the renowned sportswoman, P. T. Usha who had won 5 medals at the Asian Games, 1986.
Born to a family with a humble background and having a congenital deformity in his left hand, it was highly unlikely that he would choose sports as a career. But ever since his childhood, Sharath was inclined towards cricket and football. When he was 9 years old, swimming was made a compulsory activity in his school. Although, his parents were very uncertain about this activity, but after constant assurance by the principal, they allowed their only child to go ahead. His unusual progress in swimming was spotted by his coach, who went on to become his mentor. After a lot of perseverance and research on techniques, Sharath honed the skill, but it was after winning 4 gold medals in his first national event, that he gained confidence to actually take up swimming as a career, for two reasons. Firstly, that he was in love with it, and seconly, he was good at it. Though his family was reluctant regarding his career choice, his determination and love for the sport made them change their heart, and they’ve not regretted their decision since. Gayakwad has won over 39 international medals and 55 national medals so far, making his parents and supporters proud.
When asked about his disability, he said to a leading daily that, “It is a part of me and I have accepted it and even found a way where it doesn’t matter anymore. Yes I am at a disadvantage, but it doesn’t stop me from doing anything that I actually want to do.” Although this was a challenge for him, he overcame it marvellously. There was a time when he thought of giving in and retiring because of a shoulder injury, but thankfully after an encouraging and long talk with Rahul Dravid, he continued his toil. Not long after this, did he become the first Indian swimmer to attain the qualifying time for London Paralympics, 2012. Sharath is additionally the Asian record -holder in his category in 2 events –50m Butterfly, 50m Breaststroke.
Currently, apart from being a proud coach to a talented bunch of kids, he is the co-founder of Gammatics.in, a start-up focused on providing basic but high performance practice gears and equipments for swimming, at a reasonable rate, unlike the market. The platform also lists nutritionists and physiotherapists, in order to compile the best of everything for the best of athletes. This venture gives a chance to eradicate the issues, Sharath himself faced, during his competitions. Dedicating his life to swimming, his main motive now is to teach his techniques and skills to the future athletes of India. “How many people have a talent that can save someone’s life? Which sport enables you to help others? It is swimming. It is not just a sport activity but a life-saving skill and that is why I am so fond of it,” he proudly added.
Manya Gumashta | TOC
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