Tokyo Olympics 2020: From asking Mary Kom for directions to dining with PV Sindhu – Maana Patel lives the ‘Olympics dream’

India's Maana Patel in Tokyo. (PC: Maana Patel)
India's Maana Patel in Tokyo. (PC: Maana Patel)

Indian swimming star Maana Patel is living her dream – to compete at the Olympics and soaking in the atmosphere at the Games.

Maana Patel is one of three Indian swimmers to have made the cut for the Tokyo Olympics 2020, with the other two being Sajan Prakash and Srihari Nataraj.

While it is a dream to be competing in the sporting world’s pinnacle, only a few can pursue it and Maana Patel finds herself lucky to be "living the moment" in Tokyo.

Read: "Maana Patel has inspired many": Kamlesh Nanavati, on his student's journey to the Tokyo Olympics

In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, the swimmer said the actual feeling of competing at the Olympics only sunk in when she was departing for the quadrennial Games. She said:

“It has been amazing so far. I am taking it one day at a time. In India, my only focus was on training and even as everyone was going crazy about my Olympic qualification, I was numb to all that. I was only focused on training.”

She continued:

“We flew with the hockey, table tennis and badminton players from New Delhi to Tokyo. It was only at Delhi Airport, during the send-off function, that it had actually sunk in. I had goosebumps, literally. That was when it had sunk in that I was going to one of the sporting world’s biggest events and with the airport staff and everyone cheering for India, I must admit, it was a bit emotional.”
Maana Patel with PV Sindhu. (PC: Maana Patel)
Maana Patel with PV Sindhu. (PC: Maana Patel)

Also read: India at Olympics: India schedule, events, fixtures & timings (IST)

Maana Patel’s run-ins with sporting heroes

Any Olympic sojourn is incomplete without meeting sporting heroes. In the age of selfies and social media, memories are etched forever and it was no different for Maana Patel.

Right from New Delhi Airport to the Games Village, Maana Patel seemed starstruck.

“I did meet Katie Ledecky on the bus, but, the best moment was when I unknowingly asked Yuliya Yefimova (a six-time World Champion and a former world record holder in 50m breaststroke event) to take a picture of Srihari Nataraj and me. She was so sweet to oblige and even asked us for various poses. It only after she removed the mask that we realized that it was Yuliya and we were speechless,” she laughed.
The picture of Maana Patel and Srihari Nataraj that Yulia Efimova had taken. (PC: Maana Patel)
The picture of Maana Patel and Srihari Nataraj that Yulia Efimova had taken. (PC: Maana Patel)

However, Maana Patel’s best run-in moment came when she was ‘lost’ in the Games Village.

“I was unable to locate where vending machines were in the Games Village. That’s when I met Mary Kom and asked her where the vending machines were located. She showed me the way to the spot and was very sweet in her interaction,” she said.

Being among the stars is also a learning curve for budding athletes. Spending time with champions offers great insight into how they carry themselves off the field and Maana Patel concurs with it.

“The Indian athletes are very humble and down to earth. I also met PV Sindhu. We had a stroll in the Games Village Plaza and even had food together. Being amongst the champions does give a very good and positive vibe. It feels so motivating.”

However, Maana Patel prefers to keep it simple and take it one day at a time.

“In the bus, I was with the swimming teams from Australia and USA. I must admit that I felt intimidated at first but then I got back my focus and kept telling myself that I was one of them and we are competing together. I am taking it one day at a time. Out of the pool, I don’t think about swimming at all. There is so much to do and I am also staying focused by not overthinking about my event. I am trying to make the most of whatever is available with me now,” she concluded.

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Edited by Diptanil Roy
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