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Aaron D'Souza was winning swimming medals at 5 years old. What were you doing at that age?

Aaron D
After narrowly missing out on a London 2012 berth, D’Souza will try his hand at qualifying for Rio
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 26 Apr 2016, 20:14 IST
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He’s one of India’s fastest swimmers, and Bengaluru lad Aaron D’Souza hopes to make his second Olympic Games in Rio 2016 after missing out on the Indian squad for London 2012. But this won't be his first Olympic Games – he was part of the team that went to China in 2008.

Currently training towards Rio as he sets a number of records, D’Souza spoke to us ahead of his bid for the Olympic Games this August.

Early beginnings

I started swimming at 3, but I got my first competitive medal two years later at 5. At 10 I got my first national medal, at 13 my first international medal, by 17 I was trying out for the Oylmpics,  Age 21, I tried again, and at 24, going on 25, I’m trying again.

I have been to the Olympics before this. It’s a crazy experience. You get to see Olympians at a VERY professional level, not the kind of stuff you see on videos, on YouTube, in press conferences.

Personally, they’re very encouraging, very motivating.

And he's met them...

That was Ryan Lochte – and he told me to never stop trying. It’s advice I really needed, and try to live by.

The hardest thing that I ever experienced over my career is losing battles I thought I’d win. Once you lose, once you accept defeat, though,that’s when you’ll learn how to win – you know, you win when you lose? But it’s not always easy to get tothat point.

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After missing out on qualifying for London, I was very disappointed. I’m a human, not a machine, after all, so it was tough to put those emotions aside. Honestly, I was low, I was broken, and after 21 years of swimming – it takes a toll on your body, your mind, all of it.

There was a lot of negativity then, but there is positivity now. Realising I could come back made me bounce back. I don’t like having regrets, I’m not that person. So I told myself, “you cannot regret not going to Rio, not even trying.” That kept me up, going, kept me trying.

It’s the little things that encourage you. You see those little kids swimming, kids as young as 3, swimming. You wonder, at 24, why can’t you do something when a 3 year old can do it?

The other is when you see much older people swimming. They’re physically active, they’re aware, they’re trying. And if they can, why can’t I?

On his idols

I idolize [Ian] Thorpe, he’s the greatest freestyler of all time, without a doubt. I also idolize [Michael] Phelps because he is the greatest Olympian ever. I look up to [Ryan] Lochte because he is sincere to his sport.

But it gets brutally honest...

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Do we pee in the pool? Yes we do. And I know that’s absolutely gross, but there’s a reason. You’re swimming long distances. 8 kilometres, maybe 9km a session. That’s like a continuous 25km run, for example.

During that time, you don’t really have to time to do unnecessary things, you need to focus on what matters at that point in time – and that’s the swimming! So…you kind of do what you have to to relieve some tension – and that’s why they have the chlorine in the water in the first place.

Despite being a swimmer, he doesn't think Aquaman is a good superhero.

I’d back Superman for damn sure. I mean, Aquaman is okay and all, but he’s only good in the water. If you’re a superhero you have to be good everywhere. On land, in water. Aquaman just doesn't cut it.

Apart from swimming, I am a Formula One fan, and picks McLaren driver and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso as his favourite.

Another favourite is Jenson Button, whom Aaron watched growing up –and funnily enough, his two F1 idols are teammates now, even if the team is not doing too well. He was also a big fan of Schumacher back in the day.

And contrary to popular belief, D'Souza would be killed almost instantly by Jaws. “Competitive swimmers are clear-water swimmers – but they can’t do a thing if they can’t see the depth of the pool, so being in Jaws would be a big problem for me. So…swimming skills aside, if I were stranded on an island, I would need someone to save me.

Published 26 Apr 2016, 19:10 IST
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