I was amazed to witness her temperament, Peter Bales,noted swimmer and chairman,Cape Long Distance Swimming Association (CLDSA),said about 16-year-old Varada Dharmadhikari. Varada,a Science student at Wadia College,participated in the South Africa Open Sea Swimming Competition and Solo Events on invitation by CLDSA,South Africa at the end of February. Within a span of a week,she became the youngest and the fastest Asian to complete the swim from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay (10 km); the youngest and the second female in the world to complete the Dog’s Leg swim from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island to Bloubergstrand (18 km). She also came second in the 2.5 km Around The Rocks Extreme Swim competition at Cape Town in South Africa.
The young,confident girl had her eyes set on this coldest water swim since she was in Std 7 at St Helena’s School. “I have been a long distance swimmer since Std 7. The actual preparation for the Dog’s Leg swim began after my Std 10 examination. I started working out and toning my muscles and practised hard under the guidance of my coach Jitendra Khasnis,” she says. After a year and a half of intense practice,she knew she was ready for the feat. While in Pune,she would swim at local clubs,she practised for four hours at Clifton Fort Beach,South Africa,in 11 degree Celsius water. “It prepared me for the 13-14 degree Celsius water temperature of the solo expeditions,” she says.
Not once did she falter and think of giving up,despite struggling against the currents. “I was swimming in reverse currents and it was very difficult to tell myself that it was fine but I had been taught by my coach to never give up. I was the youngest and only the second female in world to be doing this so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I had to keep telling myself that there was no point in crying,” she describes.
She used the strategy taught to her by her coach. “When I would practice in the pool here,I had to do 36 km in 12 hours. That means 360 x 100 m. Thus,at the expedition too I broke it into smaller set to make it easier to achieve,” she explains. She completed the Dog’s Leg swim in 7.16 hours.
Now,even in the midst of giving exams at college,she has a new goal in mind – that of crossing the English Channel. Her parents are very supportive of her aim. “It’s my ultimate dream. But before that,I want to gain more international experience,” she says.