Chennai, Jan 29 (IANS) Far from the glittering waters of an Olympic-size pool, Pahi Borah learned swimming in a lake and had to use makeshift bamboo arrangements to dive and somersault. But the talent and passion of the 14-year-old from Tezpur, Assam, has carried her seamlessly from a lake to the pool.
At the 6th Khelo India Youth Games in Chennai on Sunday, Pahi added the 200m breaststroke gold medal to the 100m breaststroke silver she had won a day ago.
Egged on by coach Partha Pratim Majumder from the sidelines, Pahi ended up shaving around three seconds from her previous personal best to clock 2:41.32 seconds in the 200m backstroke final.
When she delivered the news to her father, he told her, ‘my daughter is blooming like a lotus in a lake.’
Pahi’s father Hemanta, now a sub-inspector in the Sashastra Seema Bal and a former national-level swimmer, was determined to make his daughter a swimmer too. When Pahi was just two, he would throw her into the pool in Delhi, where he was then posted, to get her used to the water.
“Older men nearby would scold him about what he was doing to his daughter,” Pahi said with a smile. “My mom would have tears in her eyes.”
However, Hemanta’s tactics helped Pahi get over her fear of water, and soon, she would become obsessed with swimming too.
With Hemanta’s job being transferable, Pahi moved back to Tezpur along with her mother and younger brother. Now Tezpur did not have a proper pool. But that was not going to stop Pahi, even though conditions in the nearby lake were vastly different.
“The water is very heavy in the lake, and very light in the pool. But whatever I have learnt is in the lake,” said Pahi.
Dibyajoti Hazarika was Pahi’s coach then, and Hemanta would also pitch in to teach his daughter after managing to get a transfer to Tezpur. Pahi went on to win a medal at the sub-junior nationals, but her technique, forged in the lake, needed to be tweaked to make it work better in the pool.
She then applied for the Sports Authority of India-Glenmark Aquatic Foundation programme at the National Swimming Academy at Talkatora Stadium, and was selected last May. She moved to Delhi, where coach Majumder has refined her technique.
“You need a combination of technique and capacity as a swimmer. It is said that a swimmer has to be tall to succeed. Not necessarily. Look at her,” coach Majumder said, pointing to the short Pahi.