Thu, Aug 23, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Relief for India swimmer as family found in floods

AFP, JAKARTA

India’s Sajan Prakash yesterday competes in the men’s 100m butterfly at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

Photo: AFP

Indian swimmer Sajan Prakash has been to hell and back at the Asian Games, competing in Jakarta while family members went missing in severe flooding.

The 24-year-old became the first swimmer to reach last weekend’s 200m butterfly final, despite the knowledge that five relatives had not been found and his family home in Kerala had been destroyed by floodwater.

Prakash finished in fifth, but his prayers were answered after an uncle called to tell him that his family had survived devastating floods that have killed more than 350 people.

“I had trouble sleeping, thinking about my family,” Prakash said. “I hadn’t heard from them because they were cut off ... and not able to contact us.”

Prakash’s mother, Shantymol, who is based in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, initially kept news of the disaster from her son so he could concentrate on his performances.

However, he found out about the floods from friends and had to put his anxiety to one side, despite hearing no word from Kerala for three days.

“I knew that the rain was getting worse when I arrived in Jakarta, but I didn’t know it was this bad,” Prakash said after yesterday’s 100m fly heats. “But that’s what we train for — to swim under pressure. If I think about it, I will screw up here, and if I screw up here, both are screwed. Either way I can’t help, I just have to focus on what I have to do.”

After becoming the first Indian swimmer to reach an Asian Games final in more than 30 years, Prakash clocked a national record of 1 minute, 57.75 seconds — a distant 3.22 seconds behind Japanese winner Daiya Seto.

Prakash, who swam for India at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said he never thought of quitting.

“I prepared for this for a long time and I didn’t want to screw it up by leaving,” he said. “My teammates kept me entertained and focused — being with them is different from being alone.”

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