“God helps those who help themselves.” Niranjan Mukundan proves to us why the saying is so true. Nothing has stopped him from chasing his dreams and achieving them. Born with spina bifida (a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings), Niranjan is virtually paralysed in the lower half of his body. But that hasn’t stopped this youngster from becoming a national swimming champion. Sportskeeda caught up with him recently:
How did you get into swimming when you were not even able to walk as a child?
I was prescribed by the doctors to do swimming as it would strengthen my leg muscles. So I was taken to by my mother and grandmother to Jayanagar Swimming Pool in Banagalore. My coach, John Christopher, spotted me and promised me to make an International level swimmer.
How many surgeries have you been through?
I have had 10 major surgeries and 6 minor ones. It all started since I was 6 months old.
How difficult was it for you in the beginning?
It was a bit difficult in the beginning when everyone around me, especially the society people, told me that it was going to be an impossible task for me to become an International swimmer. However, I took it in a positive manner and as a challenge and accomplished the feat.
What do you enjoy most about your sport?
It thoroughly energizes your whole body and it’s fun to swim. It’s a great sport and it is the only sport where you have to use your whole body.
With 32 rods in your legs, how are you able to swim?
I had a major surgery, which lasted 16 hours, in 2004 where both my legs where operated on and later the rods were removed.
What motivates you to continue with the sport?
It’s the craze which I have towards swimming. It’s now in my blood and swimming pool is my second home.
Whom do you owe your success to?
I owe my success to the three most important people in my life – my grandmother (who has been a great support for me), my parents and my coach, Mr. John Christopher.
How did you fare in British international championships for paralympic athletes in London and the German swimming championships for paralympians in Germany ?
I finished 4th in 50m butterfly event and in the other events I finished in the top 12 in the German swimming championships 2011.
In the German swimming championships 2012, I won my first international medal for my country (bronze medal) in 200m freestyle and finished in the top 7 in the other events. In the British swimming championships 2012, I finished 5th in 100m butterfly and in others in the top 5 in my category.
The public perception of many paralympians during the 2012 Games seemed to be that of “superhuman”. Can you describe the atmosphere of the Games and what they meant for you?
The atmosphere is electrifying in these international level competitions. All of us (paralympians) are ready to compete with the normal swimmers and are ready to give a tough time to them. I personally believe that I am not less than anyone in this world.
Which is your most prized victory?
My first international medal for my country and 6 medals for my state in the 12th Paralympic Swimming Championships which were held in Chennai, Dec 2012.
What goals have you set for yourself?
I am pursuing my B.com+CA from Jain university, which is one of the best universities in the country for sports. My main aim is to become an Olympic swimmer and bring more laurels to my country. I am training now for the upcoming Asian Para games and Commonwealth games in the upcoming year, which are the qualifiers for the Rio Olympics 2016.
What does a typical day in your sport involve?
It involves 4 hours of training in the morning and 3 hours of training in the evening, apart from 1 hour in the gym.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take up swimming?
Swimming is a great sport, where learning is fun and taking it up seriously is even more fun. But as said by the great minds “dedication, determination and hard work ” are the keys to success.