The ongoing swimming camp in Puri. Picture by Sarat Patra
Puri, May 5: The beaches here attract thousands of people on a regular basis, who dive into the sea to swim and bask in the waters of the Bay of Bengal.
But, when it comes to swimming as a sport, this tourist town lags way behind.
Now, things are changing for the better with a swimming camp being organised by the Puri District Swimming Association to groom young swimmers, who could seriously pursue the activity as a sport.
The swimming camp, hosted at the Sagar Tarang swimming pool of a private hotel in Puri, is drawing teenagers in large numbers. Over 70 children in the age group between eight and 16 years are learning the nuances of swimming at the camp. Former national level swimmers are coaching the kids. Some of them includes Dev Ranjan Seth and Walter Dung Dung from Sambalpur and Rajiv Lochan Das of Puri, apart from many other coaches of repute.
In spite of the keen interest among the Puri youths, swimming as a sport is in a very poor state here, said an official of the association.
"We have been hosting this camp during summers since the past three years, and every time, we see a beeline of youngsters, who enthusiastically take part in the camp. But, after it is over, a few of them pursue swimming as a sport. Parents need to encourage the youngsters to continue swimming in competitive circuits. Sadly, this is the state of affairs for various sports in Puri, mainly due to lack of parents' encouragement. Not many teenagers pursue sporting disciplines seriously," said association secretary Madhusudan Mishra.
"Adding to these woes is the lack of a government-run swimming pool, where we could host regular training sessions to groom the budding swimmers, who wants to take up the sport," Mishra said.
Most of the children at the camp are elated after attending the ongoing camp. Some of them even wish to take it up for the upcoming state-level competition in June.
"I had taken part in the camp last year too and fell in love with swimming as a sport. I continued to train even after the camp and even took part in last year's state-level competition. I wish to do the same this year," said 13-year-old Sovan Mohanty.
The camp commenced on May 3 and will continue till the first week of June, said an official of the association.