Located in a quaint area adjacent to Cemetery Road, the Shenoy Nagar swimming pool gives the vibe of a recreational centre more than a pool playing home to State and national-level swimmers.
And leading the progamme at this venue is G Premkumar, appointed district sports officer last year. A former coach with the Midas touch, Premkumar took charge two months ago. The 52-year-old says the transition has not been easy. “Being a coach and then an administrator requires a major lifestyle switch. As a coach, you need to concentrate on just one sport: in my case, swimming. As an administrator, there is a wider range of issues you have to look after. And that can be taxing at times,” says the man who has been responsible for the rise of the likes of T Sethu Manickavel and T Emil Robin Singh.
Since he took over the Anna Stadium in Tirunelveli in 2009, Premkumar has been able to carve out an identity for the sport in the sleepy town. Ask him the secret to his success, and he replies, “It was just six years of hard work and systematic training. Also, I got a good bunch of swimmers who were willing to work hard and sacrifice a lot to get the best out of themselves,” notes the former armyman.
He says that he had to cajole parents to send their wards for training. “I had to go around convincing people in the city that sport was more than just a way to pass time. After the kids started winning medals, parents themselves took interest and brought their kids to the pool.”
The Tirunelveli native is sure that Sethu and Emil Robin can win Asian Games medals in the future, though no coach has been appointed to replace him. “These two can 100% become Asian medallists. I know that the current situation, with no coach being appointed, is not ideal, but they are still following the modules I had provided, and I go there every two months to ensure everything is good,” he says. “Whatever life has in store for me, and wherever I go after this, I know there won’t be any feeling in the world that can trump the sight of my wards standing on the podium after winning a medal,” he signs off.