The 16-year-old, who put up a stellar performance in the Danish Open, says swimming involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears
Vedaant Madhavan, the son of popular Indian actor R Madhavan, has been making a splash in the world of swimming and put up a stellar performance in the Danish Open.
The 16-year-old Indian swimmer, who is based in Dubai, clinched gold in the men’s 800m and silver in the 1,500m event at the competition last month, with the Indian team doing quite well.
Last year, R Madhavan and his family shifted to Dubai to make it easy for his son to prepare for the Olympics.
Training under coach Pradeep Kumar at the Aqua Nation Sports Academy in Dubai, Vedaant’s training partners also performed extremely well. His teammate Sajan Prakash clinching gold in the 200m butterfly, while Tanish George Mathew finished fourth in the men’s 200m freestyle ‘A’ final. Shakthi Balakrishnan came in seventh in the ‘A’ final of the women’s 200m butterfly.
“This meet was an assessment on where the athletes stood ahead of important upcoming swimming competitions,” said coach Kumar. “And I am fairly happy with the results.”
Move to Dubai
Vedaant and his family moved to Dubai two years ago at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when pools were shut down in their hometown of Mumbai. “In Dubai, pools had opened within just four months. So, as a family, we took the decision to move here so that I could train,” he said.
“The shift from Mumbai to Dubai went smoother than expected. I really like it in Dubai, and I have more time because everything is nearby. In Mumbai, I used to lose a lot more time commuting.”
His teammate Sajan Prakash moved to Dubai around the same time. “I had qualified for the 2020 Olympics, and I needed to train,” said Prakash. “When the pools in India shut down, I moved here to continue my training,” he said.
Even though Prakash didn’t make it to the Olympics finals, he remains one of the most successful Indian swimmers, having qualified for two consecutive Olympics.
The other two teammates, Shakthi and Tanish, moved to Dubai after their fathers shifted here for work.
“It is easy for some parents to say that they want their children to be professional athletes,” said Kumar. “However, very few are ready to put in the effort and sacrifices needed to make it a reality. We, as coaches, want people to be regular, sincere, and hard working.”
“There are certain challenges we face. One is academic pressure. Excellence is usually something we see in only one field. It is more common to see people who are mediocre in both. Good athletes need to pour their energies into the sport. In such instances, academics usually takes a backseat. In swimming, they spend six to eight hours in the pool.
“Then they need strength-training in the gym and proper nutrition. In addition to this, they need rest and recovery. If they don’t rest, their body cannot recover and perform to their full potential the next day. It is very repetitive ,” he said.
“Another challenge we face is the lure of social media. Kids these days are into social media and their phones. If they spend even a couple of hours late at night on their phones scrolling through social media, it can have an impact on their performance the next day,” Prakash said.
Vedaant said his social media usage is monitored by his parents. “There are no set hours for me to use it. I think I am responsible enough to not let it get in my way. I also work with a nutritionist and follow a strict diet since I am a vegetarian. So, getting the required amount of proteins is a little trickier than for those who eat meat.”
After starting swimming at the age of 12, Vedaant hasn’t looked back. “I enjoy the feeling of being submerged in water,” he said. “It feels like a completely different world. A place where I can be calm. I feel at peace when I am swimming and that is what inspired me to be a swimmer.”
Now his goals are clear. “I want to qualify for the nationals in July,” he said. “From there, I want to qualify for the world FINA juniors. These are short term plans. The long-term aim is to make it to the Olympics.”
For Prakash, the immediate goal is to go to the Commonwealth Games in July and then the Asian Games in August. Tanish wants to qualify for the Asian games while Shakthi hopes to get into the Indian national team.