Interview with Sharath Gayakwad – “Awareness about sports for the differently-abled is lacking in India”
Back in Bangalore after a successful outing in the IDM (International Deutsche Meisterschaften) Swimming Championships in Berlin, Germany, Paralympic swimmer Sharath Gayakwad is elated to have qualified for the Asian Para Games in October in seven events.
Gayakwad bagged the silver medal in the 100m breaststroke. That, coupled with bronzes in the 200m individual medley and 100m butterfly, saw the triumphant culmination of his remarkable campaign, where he was the lone Indian athlete.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Gayakwad expressed his dissatisfaction at the infrastructure and facilities provided to differently-abled athletes.
Your performance in Berlin ensured that you qualified for the Asian Para Games. Has the feeling sunk in yet?
Yes, I’m very happy to have qualified. It feels wonderful to do well, and I’m looking forward to the Asian Para Games.
What was your preparation for Berlin like? How was it different to your preparation for other events?
Actually, I went into the IDM with the main aim of qualifying for the Asian Para Games. So there wasn’t any special preparation involved. I just kept working on my fitness, because I needed to have the endurance to participate in seven races in the IDM. Normally, I do specific race training and practice, but I concentrated more on my fitness now.
What is your take on the current situation of differently-abled athletes in India? Are you happy with the facilities provided?
I think the facilities for the differently-abled must be improved. There is a lot of scope for improvement. We don’t have enough facilities catering purely to the differently-abled.
Any specific measures that you think needs to be taken to improve the situation?
I think that infrastructure and awareness are lacking. We need to educate people about sports for the differently-abled. As awareness increases, I’m sure the infrastructure would improve, and so I think we need to work on the awareness aspect.
What have been the biggest hurdles that you have had to overcome?
I’ve actually been quite lucky; I’ve not had too many hurdles. I have had all the support I ever needed, and I’m very thankful to my coach. He had never trained a differently-abled swimmer before, and it’s because of him I am where I am today. My parents and my school also were very supportive.
But that’s not the case with most other differently-abled sportspersons, who don’t get the support or the opportunities…
Yeah, that is a huge problem. There are so many athletes who are so hard-working and who have so much talent, but are unable to express it because they don’t get the support they need. Because of that, they aren’t able to go into competitions like the IDM and prove themselves.
Have you had any issues with getting sponsors for your events?
Actually, no. Infinite Computer Solutions sponsored me for the IDM, while GoSports and Speedo India have always supported me.
What are your personal plans for the future?
I plan to swim for around three more years. After that, I’ll be taking up coaching and training. I want to train swimmers and make them ready for international competitions.
Is there any message you would like to give all the differently-abled athletes in India?
Being differently-abled is a disadvantage, yes. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. Don’t give up on what you want to do. Work hard towards it.