THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It's another sultry afternoon at the Pirappancode International Aquatic Complex with sun showing no signs of relenting. In the shade of the concrete structure where the diving boards are fixed, sits a medium-built middle-aged man, occasionally adjusting his sunglasses.
Shifting a plastic carry-bag roll from one hand to another, he gives an impression of a who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. If not for the green track-suit and the white jacket he is wearing, people who are used to judging one's significance on the basis of pomp would've asked him for the reason to be near the diving pool!
“I will give them a broad smile, if they ask me such a question. Maybe after that I will tell them the small connection I have with the sport,” he says with a smile.
'Small connection' is his way of downplaying the relation he has with the sport. In fact, every Indian diver worth his salt knows this person. For them, B S Ravisekhar is not just any name, but the embodiment of love and passion for the sport. Currently the national coach, Ravisekhar's diving career was over when he fractured his cervical bone in the 1989 swimming nationals in his home town of Thiruvananthapuram. The pool was only 16 feet deep and Ravisekhar crashed against the tile at the bottom of the pool. “It was a tough time. Till 1991, I was restricted to bed and hopes of returning to the board died,” he said.
For a country that has been struggling to find a foot in diving it was a terrible hit. Ravisekhar was a ten-time national champion and won the 10m diving in the '85 and '87 editions of the National Games with records to boot.
In 1991, he was operated upon at AIIMS Delhi and the surgery helped to fix the fracture in his neck. By then, he had decided to dabble in training. “That decision was taken after a lot of thinking. I knew my career as a diver was over but I wanted to remain in touch with diving because it's my first love and passion. So I became CRPF coach,” he reminisces.
Ravisekhar was appointed national coach in 1999. In the Hyderabad edition of the Games, his trainee Lakshmi Das won gold in high-board and that was the beginning. “I am happy to be the mentor of youngsters. A lot of them trained under me and when I see them doing well, I feel very happy.”
Siddarth Pardeshi from Army Sports Institute, who won gold for Kerala in 10m high-board at the Games, is being trained by Ravisekhar in the national camp. From Pardeshi, Ravisekhar expects a lot. “He is young and talented. I am hopeful that he can go a great distance,” the 55-year-old taskmaster adds.
A handful of divers emerged from the pool and came to him. He asked them about their training. Then came a visual media reporter looking for 'one mister Ravisekhar'. Ravisekhar was calm and humble as usual. “He was somewhere here,” the coach says in a lighter vein, before pulling the reporter by his arm to his side. “I am that mister,” he informs the aghast journalist.