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ACROSS THE TROUBLED WATERS

THE STORY OF SWIMMING By Krishin R. Wadhwaney, Publications Division, Rs 195

In cricket-centric India, a common grouse is the lack of reading material on other sports. This vacuum has been partially filled by the first ever book on the history of Indian swimming from its inception in the early 20th century till the present day. Senior sports journalist Krishin R. Wadhwaney has followed Indian swimming since 1944, and whilst in college in Karachi, also attempted to qualify for the swimming squad for the 1948 London Olympics.

The book has valuable nuggets of information about eminent Indian swimmers, coaches and officials of a bygone era. There are chapters on water polo, diving, scuba diving, synchronized swimming and long distance swimming. Wadhwaney has also added chapters on training, diet, equipment, motivation and what ails Indian aquatics.

The initial chapters aptly show the teething problems faced by Indian swimmers and officials. The first Indian to swim in the Olympics was Calcutta’s N.C. Malik, who reached Los Angeles in 1932 thanks to the efforts of the National Swimming Association which started in Calcutta in 1924, with Subhas Chandra Bose as the first president. The NSA started lane swimming in 1931 and also affiliation to the world body FINA in 1932. This privilege led to an acrimonious rivalry with the Indian Olympic Association, which felt piqued at being upstaged by NSA. The dispute remained unresolved till 1948. The persuasive intervention of Jawaharlal Nehru led to an amalgamation of the bodies and the birth of the Swimming Federation of India in January 1948.

The author narrates the travails, triumphs and disappointments of Indian swimmers from 1948 to 2002. He focuses on the 1951 Asiad gold medal in water polo and laments India’s long absence in the game till the 1970 Bangkok Asiad at which the team secured a silver medal. India also secured a bronze medal in water polo in the 1982 Delhi Asiad. Despite such successes, water polo has got step-motherly treatment in India.

The chapters on the history of the national championships and the advent of age-group swimming and its attendant problems provide a fascinating insight into the changing trends of swimming in the country. In “Some leading stars”, the author profiles some leading divers and outstanding swimmers. Among them are Raja Ram Sawoo, K.P. Thakkar (diving), Issac Mansoor, Dilip Mitra, Moti Bhatia and M.S. Rana to modern day icons like Khazan Singh, Anita Sood and Nisha Millet.

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