CHENNAI: It’s not often that you see teenagers turn their back on firecrackers, especially considering the fact that every child in India is raised on the grandiose of the festival — Diwali. But Shruthi Mahalingam isn't your average teen. While most her age were busy celebrating the biggest pan-Indian festival, the 19-year-old swimmer was busy returning from yet another successful event.
“I won six medals, including five gold and one silver, at the All-India University Nationals that was held in Chandigarh from October 24 to 28, but at the cost of missing Diwali. I don’t miss bursting firecrackers though, since I'm more of a green person,” smiles Shruthi.
Her cat, Caramel, is the reason for this. “My cat is scared of fireworks just like other animals. That's why I stopped bursting crackers. Caramel was a gift to me from a friend, and I named her so because she is orangish-brown and so sweet!” she adds.
It’s been a hectic few months for the Bengaluru-based swimmer. First was the Senior Nationals in September-end (where she won Tamil Nadu’s only gold, apart from a silver), then came the South Asian Aquatics Championships in Colombo from October 8 to 16. She won three golds and two silvers, including one in open water five km swimming — which she was doing for the first time at the event! The “All-India university nationals came up, so I've been very busy. The plan is to now take some time off and help my little sister, Smriti, who is a budding U-14 swimmer with some events lined up.”
While a lot of competitive swimming means missing out on academics, this second year B Com student at Jain University is thankful for her college's support. “They let me take off whenever some event comes up, and if needed, let me attend extra classes later on. I’m grateful for my college support. Studies were never really a problem for me anyway,” she grins.
Currently training under national coach Pradeep Kumar in Bengaluru, Shruthi says she has a close group of friends whom she meets often. “I have like seven or eight close friends, and I make sure I meet them whenever I'm free,” adds the swimmer, who is sponsored by the Championship Development Scheme of the Tamil Nadu government.