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Making waves in the pool

Staff Reporter

This polio-affected swimmer came up with a creditable performance in the Melbourne Games



Tirumalai Kumar with his Commonwealth Games medal.

VIJAYAWADA: He flashes the medal and certificate of participation he got at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and the city's physically challenged swimmer Tirumali Kumar gets the attention of swimmers at Sir Vizzi swimming pool at Gandhinagar.

Thirty-year-old Kumar, an employee of the South Central Railway, took part in the Commonwealth Games and finished sixth in the 50-meter freestyle, losing the bronze medal by four seconds.

Kumar, Sarath Chandra (gymnast) and Chetan Anand (shuttler) were the only sportspersons from the city to take part in the Melbourne event. Before the Games, he had a one-month intensive training at the Sports Authority of India sports centre at Bangalore.

When he was nine months old, polio struck, crippling his right leg. But, that hasn't deterred the youngster from competing hard.

""All physically challenged swimmers were clubbed together for the competitions in the Commonwealth Games. The percentage of disability was not differentiated, because of which a 100 per cent physically challenged swimmer had to vie with swimmers with less percentage of disability. This clubbing took the sheen out of the competition," he said.

He developed shoulder cramps a few days before the event, and was even advised by the doctor to skip the meet. "I developed intense shoulder pain and was performing well below par. But I decided to give it a shot, pain notwithstanding," he recalled.

Competing with quality Australian, English and Canadian swimmers, Kumar finished the 50-meter freestyle event in 36.08 seconds. "I was finishing the race in 28.49 seconds at the camp. My shoulder injury prevented me from giving my best," The encouraging performance by Kumar in the 50-meter freestyle has ensured his entry into the forthcoming Asian Games for Physically Challenged at Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), for which the first eight best timings at Melboure were considered.

Kumar would also take part in the World Swimming Championship to be held at Durban in November. "I will participate in the 200-meter individual medley and 100-meter backstroke at the Durban meet. In Kuala Lumpur, apart from swimming, I will also take part in shot put and javelin," he added.

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