“We were coming back from Rio and none of the players knew that Prime Minister Modi had called us to meet him personally. When we landed in Amsterdam, I checked my mail and there was a message about his personal invitation to the whole team. I was doubtful whether it was true or not. So we messaged back and confirmed it. Even silver medallist Deepa Malik couldn’t believe that PM Modi had called us to meet him. I got to speak to him for some time and he gave me a pat on my back. That experience was a really memorable one,” says Suyash Jadhav recalling his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the Rio Paralympics 2016.
On a bright Sunday morning, I met 23-year-old Paralympic swimmer Suyash Jadhav in Pune. Jadhav has won three gold, four silver and two bronze medals at international tournaments to date. He has represented India at the Rio 2016 Paralympics and was the only Indian Para Swimmer to achieve ‘A’ qualifying mark at Rio 2016 Paralympics. Currently, he is training for the Asian Games, World Championship and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I started swimming at a very early age. In the sixth standard, I came into contact with a live wire. Both my hands were electrocuted and had to be amputated. One day, my dad asked me to swim in a lake as we were on a holy trip. That was the first time I swam. It was two years after my accident. So when I started to swim, my dad understood that I could still swim even after the tragedy. After that I have never looked back,” says Jadhav on what inspired him to take up swimming after his accident.
To follow his passion for swimming, he shifted from Solapur to Pune. With good training and practise he started to better his own timings to meet the requirements of international competitions. After his first international tournament in 2009, he had to wait till 2015 for his next international competition. He explains his wait of six years with a grin on his face.
“Some mistakes were committed by me whereas there were problems within the Association as well. I was performing well, yet I wasn’t given a chance. Other players whose timings weren’t as good as mine were given a chance. I used to feel bad about not getting a chance,” he says. Jadhav’s focus was clear: He wanted to be a part of the 2014 Asian Games, 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2015 World Championship and the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
He adds, “My financial conditions were not such that I could go fly out and participate at an international level competition. At the same time, the Paralympic Committee of India was suspended and this only added to our woes. Association problems and other obstacles almost plagued my dreams and made me so depressed that I quit swimming in 2015,” says Jadhav.
His dad stepped in and convinced him to remain patient and not quit swimming. The father-son duo left no stone unturned as they travelled to Delhi, Bangalore and many other cities to get the ban reversed. Finally, the Sports Authority of India got permission to send the athletes to international competitions.
“Every day in the morning I swim for about two to three hours after which I do fitness training for one hour. This is followed by gym in the evening for two hours and swimming again for two hours. Every day I train for about six hours,” says Jadhav.
The way he effortlessly operates his iPhone and wears his clothes makes you realise the sheer amount of effort he has put in to be independent and not rely on others. Besides swimming, Jadhav runs marathons, and is a fitness freak as well. He says working on his physical fitness at the gym has helped him become a better swimmer. This is what motivated him to start ‘Swimmers Sunday’ and share his knowledge of swimming with people across the globe on social media platforms.
“Swimmers Sunday is a concept I came up with where I am trying to give back to society through my knowledge of swimming. Even if 20 percent of people take inspiration from me and learn from my endeavour, I would feel very nice. It gives me much happiness to share my knowledge about swimming,” he says.