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Big splash for swim trio

Three youngsters make a mark on national stage



Twins Madhavi (left) and Madhuri

KARNATAKA ENJOYS a unique system in swimming, which has ensured a constant supply of young talent to the sport. Given its strong infrastructure, good set of coaches, and an enlightened administration, it is not at all surprising to find swimmers from the State dominate the National events.

The recent sub-junior National championship held at Nashik was marked by impressive performances of three youngsters, the twins — Madhavi and Madhuri Giri, and Vaibhavi, who between themselves picked up quite a few medals. Young Madhavi reigned as the best individual swimmer in Group III, and Vaibhavi took the honours in Group IV. It is common to find siblings in swimming, but twins in swimming are a rare phenomenon. The Giri sisters not only share the same looks, but also the same passion for swimming.

Their father Mr. Giri put them into swimming because, as he put it, "I don't know swimming and I thought at least my daughters should know it. But having them in the pool was not enough. I felt that they should achieve something and hence I encouraged them to get into competitive swimming." That was about six years ago when Madhavi and Madhuri began to splash around in the KCR Pool. They have now made their father, Professor, Seshadripuram College, proud with a string of good performances. Under the guidance of coach Nihar Ameen who is the mentor of arguably India's best swimmers, Shikha Tandon, and Rehan Poncha, the Giris' have a long road ahead to reach the dizzy heights of their peers, but they are very much on the road to getting there.



The sisters with coach Nihar Ameen

Like all other novices, they first made their mark in the non-medallist competitions, such as the Weekender Meet. "Actually Madhuri was among the medals and I was getting minor places," says Madhavi, now the more successful of the two. Their first National was in Delhi last year dominated by swimmers from other States, especially Maharashtra. Madhavi particularly had a good outing in the South Zone meet earlier held in Mysore in January, where she had a memorable win over team-mate Neeraja. The two shared their Group III honours in the State championship. That put the duo in the right frame of mind for the Sub-Junior Nationals at Nashik. Madhavi rose to the occasion at Nashik with a haul of three golds and a silver and coveted individual championship title. The versatility apart, what coach Nihar sees in Madhavi is a butterfly champion: "The girl is pretty good in fly, though she can do individual medley, freestyle, and backstroke with equal felicity. She does something like 1:13 in fly which is pretty good for her age. Both the girls are committed and hard working and I see them doing better, especially Madhavi in the years to come," says Nihar Ameen.

Madhavi credits her good show to her coaches at KCR, especially to Jayaraj, to whom she dedicated her freestyle gold. As siblings, they have a healthy rivalry. "We don't give in easily to each other, but keep motivating one another in the pool," says Madhuri.

The 12-year-old Cluny School students also give credit to their school for encouraging them in their chosen sport. "We get time off for training, but we do not ignore studies and get good grades," says Madhavi.



Vaibhavi

Another winner from Nihar's stable at Nashik was Vaibhavi. The nine-year-old sprightly youngster was the pick of the lot in the Group IV events. She took to swimming as a four-year-old toddler upon doctors' advice. "Our doctor told us to put her in swimming as she was having a wheezing problem," says her mother, Prathibha. What was tried as a cure set a course for a promising career. Vaibhavi won medals by a handful at non-medallist meets organised by Weekender and Rotary and topped the State sub-junior meet in her section. At Nashik, she took two golds, two silvers, two bronzes, and finished on top of the heap with 32 points. Vaibhavi is too young to take up any specialisation, but marks out individual medley as her best bet.

The trio, Madhavi, Madhuri, and Vaibhavi would love to emulate the National and State stars such as Shikha Tandon and Nisha Millet and aim for international representation. Given their penchant for hard work (they turn up for practice even on holidays) and dedication, they can go far. "Yes, they can go far," concurs Nihar Ameen. "They have the ambition and I have the hope. And all I can say is trust me and my programme and watch out for the results."

KALYAN ASHOK

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