BENGALURU : In 2012, when Avinash Mani won his first national medal in swimming, he was elated. The long wait had borne fruit. That silver in the 4x200 metre freestyle relay was special. It was not only his first but also he wanted to make his parents proud like how his elder brother Arvind did, winning medals at national and international events. Six years later, he is in the big league with Arvind for both of them will be in action at the upcoming Asian Games after qualifying for it at the Singapore National Swimming Championships. The dream that the Manis were after for so long is now around the corner.
While Arvind, backstroker, had been consistent in climbing up the ladder, Avinash wasn’t. His initial struggle to win a national medal took a toll on him but his parents and his brother had his back. “My parents never gave up on me. They waited for me to perform. It was tough for me because I wasn’t living up to the expectations, I felt. But my brother, my coach, my teachers at school and college and my parents offered unconditional support,” Avinash, a freestyler, told Express.
Padmanabha Rao, coach of both brothers, saw them grow up at a pool. He remained witness to the thousands of hours of training both of them put in. As a coach, he feels happy that his students are going to represent a billion dreams. But, for Rao, their progress has just begun.“I have seen them swimming from the very first day they walked into BAC (Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre) some 15-16 years ago. Avinash picked up a little later than his brother. But, he continued to work hard and a place in the Asiad contingent is the reward,” said Rao.
“Arvind has been putting up good timings and I think he is ready for the event. But I feel the road is long and they just have to better their timings every event they take part in. There is no better place to prove your mettle than the Asian Games.”However, it’s just not their hard work that paid off. Their parents had an equal contribution to push them every day. A Mani, father of the siblings, runs a small business in the city and that didn’t allow him to freely spend on their swimming coaching. But he never complained.
Besides the hard times he put into his business to run that successfully, he woke up every morning at 4’o clock to take his sons to BAC. “It’s a proud moment for us but the ultimate test begins now and they have to be up for the challenge. It’s just the first step of many to play in the Olympics 2020,” said Mani. Both brothers are at the national camp underway at the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Besides individual events, the challenge is to make it to the relay team. While Avinash is slowly gaining momentum in each lap, Arvind is also in form. He clinched two bronze medals in the 50 and 100m backstroke events at the Singapore Nationals.
“We didn’t get very good timing at the trials in Bengaluru but we did well at Singapore nationals. Now that we are in the squad, our primary objective is to improve our personal best and qualify for the finals. We have been in touch with Pradeep (Kumar) sir (national coach) and are trying to shave as much time as possible,” said Arvind.While their coach Rao is happy with their progress, he believes asking for a medal will be putting too much pressure on them. “They have been working hard to close the gap with the best Asian swimmers. It’s a difficult task. The primary target is to secure a place in the finals. We will see after that,” Rao firstname.lastname@example.org
Virdhawal Khade, Sandeep Sejwal, Sajan Prakash, Srihari Nataraj, Advait Page, Aaron D’Souza, Anshul Kothari, Arvind Mani, Saurabh Sangvekar, Avinash Mani, Neel Roy.