He almost quit swimming due to boredom and stagnation but Asian Games-bound Sandeep Sejwal says he is now more motivated than ever after being driven back to the pool by a fear of regrets.
Sejwal claimed a bronze in the 50m breaststroke event of the 2014 Asian Games, making him just the ninth Indian ever to achieve the feat. He called it quits last year after his timings became stagnant and started coaching young children instead.
“I did not swim for 8 months. I was getting bored with my performance; it was not improving, for almost 8 years I was stuck on a particular time. I thought I was done with swimming but (coach) Nihar (Ameen) sir convinced me to give it another shot,” Sejwal told PTI in an interview.
“The only motivation I had was that I wanted to finish on a good note. I wanted to be satisfied with my performance, so instead of regretting it later in life, I decided to give it another try. We changed my programme and it has worked very well so far,” he added.
The 29-year-old says with age he has gained in experience and has worked on a few technical aspects, which could fetch him better results.
“A lot has changed in the past 4 years, because of my age I am focussing really hard on the recovery. Four years back I think my start was the weakest link but now I am doing well in that department,” he said.
“I am right now only thinking up till the Asian Games depending on my performance there I will think about continuing or changing profession.”
He has created a few ripples, including a gold in the 50m breaststroke with a meet record at the Singapore National Championships recently.
The performances couldn’t have come at a better time for the Delhi-lad as he prepares for the Asian Games after nursing a fractured ankle, which forced him to miss the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.
“I had injured my leg in February, after rehab I participated in a lot of competitions and the good thing is that my performance is getting better. Winning international events always boosts the confidence. I am more motivated than ever,” Sejwal said.
Asked if he feels extra pressure since he finished on the podium the last time around, Sejwal says he tries not to think about what people expect of him.
“I am not thinking about what other people are expecting. I’m just going to enjoy training. Not thinking about the expectations helps me keep calm and focus more on training.”
However, the Arjuna awardee insists the Indian team is better prepared and the performance will be better than last time.
“I am very positive about the entire team. Everyone is more prepared this time. The youngsters are very enthusiastic as we have been a regular in winning medals so they know it’s possible to win,” Sejwal, who was present at the Speedo Invitational Swimming Championship, said.
Virdhawal Khade won the bronze medal in 50m butterfly event, India’s first in 24 years — during the 2010 edition in Guangzhou, followed by Sejwal. Khade will be a part of the team along with Sejwal.
“It’s been almost 3 years since we were a part of the team together. I am really excited for it and in the process if we both end up winning a medal, that would be ideal,” he added.
As he gears up for what could be his last major championship, Sejwal, who will be competing in the 50m and 100m breaststroke events along with 4x100m relay, says a lot has changed in the past four years.
“But I am swimming faster than I ever did,” he said.