As Ananya Panigrahi walked in to the swimming arena on March 20 at the Balewadi Sports Complex,she was greeted by the sight of Indias best young swimmers clustered around the notice-board. I was curious to find out what it was that all the people were looking at. When I saw my name on the board it was just a very pleasant shock for me, says the 16-year-old.
Panigrahi is the only girl from the city to have been selected to represent India at the World School Swimming Cup which will be held in Herzylya,Israel from the seventh of April till the 12th. Panigrahi who is touted as the rising star of Indian swimming knows that she will face intense competition at the meet but is hoping that she will clinch a medal.
Its a big international meet and the best young swimmers will be there. However,I am confident of holding my own there and I am confident that my training and ability will definitely help me in winning a medal, she says.
Panigrahi,a first year junior college student of NCL Junior College is a well-known name on the swimming circuit. The pint-sized swimmer has already represented India at the 2010 Commonwealth Games where she was the youngest competitor. Representing my country on such a big stage was an incredible experience. Even though I couldnt manage to win a medal,sharing a pool with some of the best in the business was an amazing experience for me, she says.
Daughter of Tapan Kumar Panigrahi,a Sports Authority of India swimming coach,competitive swimming was a natural choice for Ananya. I am a keen dancer and before starting competitive swimming I used to train as a Bharatnatyam dancer. However,once my father asked me to come to the pool and that was the day it all really started, she says.
Panigrahi already has 90 medals to her name. She jumped on to the national radar in 2010 when she bagged the gold medal at the Senior Nationals in Jaipur in the 100m backstroke. The teenager also has a clutch of national records to her name along with two international records and a couple of international gold medals.
The Panigrahi household has already identified a target for their daughter. Father,Tapan Kumar Panigrahi,says that the target for his daughter is a berth at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. She has the potential and talent to be amongst the best in the world. I have seen her progress and if she continues to work hard nothing can stop her from going to Rio, he says.
Ananya though for all her prowess in the pool does miss the life of a regular 16-year-old girls. I hardly ever go out for movies or dinners with my friends. I train for four hours every day of the year. However,at the end of the day swimming and winning medals gives me the ultimate satisfaction so I cant really complain.she says.