Olympics beckon for Bangalore swimmer
AT THE age of 14, Karan Kotaraju left his home in Bangalore, India, on a quest to realise his dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer – which brought him to South Africa.
Three years later, under the watch of Swimming South Africa head coach Graham Hill, he has developed into one of India’s most promising junior swimmers.
Karan is now preparing for the
2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Argentina in October. He landed a spot on the Indian team after he clocked a 100m freestyle qualifying time at the National Aquatics Championships held in Port Elizabeth recently.
The trip to Buenos Aires will be his second appearance in the colours of India after making his international debut at the Youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas last year.
“I was so happy when I saw the time and realised that I had met the standard set by the Swimming Federation of India,” Karan said.
“I called home to share the news as soon as I could. My parents and brother were over the moon. I want to swim at the Olympics one day and this is a step in that direction.”
The 17-year-old is part of a swimming exchange programme paid for by Indian-based steel company JSW.
The privately funded programme ensured that Karan and six other Indian nationals received top-level swimming coaching from Hill and an education at Glenwood High School.
“I am really enjoying it here. It feels like a second home. The weather is great and so are the people. I feel like I am South African in a sense.”
He admits that leaving home was extremely difficult but his sacrifice has paid dividends.
“The first two years were very challenging but I have adjusted. When I look at how much I have improved and progressed I know it was worth it.”
The rising young star says he wears the colours of India with pride but wishes the government would do more to improve the sport. “Swimming is growing in India,” he says. “People need to understand that cricket is not the only sport. It is a mentality thing.
“The government needs to support other codes. I think when the mindsets change, India will start to produce all types of athletes.”
As the winter months start to set in, Karan’s focus is unmoved. He’s determined to excel at the forthcoming Argentinian showpiece event.
“My aim is to make the semi-final or finals, so I have a lot of work to do. I need to do my best and improve my times. I have to train harder, be fit and healthy. That requires me to follow the coach’s instructions and hope for the best.”
And Karan has Hill’s backing. “I think he is very capable of reaching his targets. Karan is a great kid, he is likeable and has a good work ethic.
“These guys go home once a year. That’s tough for a 14-year-old but they train hard because they believe in their dreams.”
Karan Kotaraju of India is training in South Africa, following his dream to become an Olympic swimmer.