The heavily polluted Karamana river, which has literally turned into drainage canal, can, ironically, boast of moulding swimming champions who even took part in international events. However, the advantage is now lost as the river, having turned a dump yard, is no longer fit for swimming, leaving the swimmers in the lurch.
Creating a pool of trained swimmers is what the YMA Swimming Club at Thiruvallom has taken up for the past 50 years as a challenge. The club had embarked on the initiative to train children at a young age to mould them into champions. But now, the youngsters have no place to swim and the polluted river has reduced the number of club members to less than 100.
Talented swimmers of the club, who have taken part in national as well as international events, are now training in other pools. And the passionate swimmers of the club have to pay a huge amount to train themselves. The club now takes them to the nearby pool in the wake of the increasing pollution in the Karamana river.
“Till now, more than 50 members of the club have got jobs in sports quota in Services, BSF, CRPF and Railways. What would have been the situation if better facilities were available for the talents?” ask the residents.
“I started practising swimming in this channel from my childhood and was selected to national-level competitions. Subsequently, I was selected to CRPF in sports quota five years ago,” said Hareesh, a swimmer.
Another swimmer, Aneesh B, was recently selected by Railways. He regularly practises in the morning along with 80 children who intend to participate in events.
Radhakrishnan, who now works with CRPF, had competed in the Commonwealth Games some years ago. In recent events, Lalkrishna, Sharat G, Chandra Babu and Murali Krishna from the club had represented the country.
“YMA Club sent swimmers for various competitions and national-level championships during the course of their training. When the swimmers became eligible for government jobs at the age of 18, many of them were inducted based on their achievements,” said Babu, secretary of the club.
He said it was disheartening to see talents finding it difficult to practise their skills. ‘’Most of the swimmers hail from poor families and depend on the sports quota for getting jobs. It is quite difficult for them to spend huge amounts for training,” he explained.
“During the last two years, we lost many talented swimmers and water polo players, all of them top performers in their events. The only solution is cleaning the river,” said Biju, a local man and club member. “When you enter the water, it forms a film around your body,” he said.
The youngest state-level swimmer of the club, Kiran S, a standard IV student, had to end his training a few months ago following a bout of rat fever contracted after practicing in the river. It is estimated that around 30 children who practised in the river were affected by rat fever.
The local residents and the club authorities are doubtful over the future of the club if the mess in the river continues. “To reach the unreachable is what we are hoping for,” say the young swimmers.