Breaking The Odds, This Para Swimmer With 19 Surgeries Overcame Challenges to Set the Asian Record

Mad4Sports By Chaithra B S | 3 min read

Para Swimmer

Para swimmer Niranjan Mukundan, who was born with Spina Bifida, surmounted enormous obstacles to not only serve India and win multiple medals but also to create Asian records and motivate millions. 

Para Swimming Cup tournament 

At the Para Swimming Cup tournament in Prague, Czech Republic, on May 8, 2022, para swimmer Niranjan Mukundan set the Asian record in the 800 metres freestyle event by more than 50 seconds. With a time of 11:17:22, he shattered the 12-year-old Asian record of 12:10:34 and won the competition with six medals—three gold, two silver, one bronze, and a fourth-place finish.

The day before the 800m freestyle, a 27-year-old from Bengaluru para swimmer won a couple of medals in the 100m butterfly, 50m butterfly, 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke as well. 

The para swimmer started the race in the middle lane, giving him a clear view of his opponents on both sides. He was swimming alongside three of them and ahead of the pack in the first 100 metres. There was one contender on his right after the 400m who was a stroke ahead of him. By 600 metres, he had caught up to him and was swimming neck and neck with him. 

This para swimmer overtook him leading by one stroke at the turn post-700m and sought to keep that lead. The margin had risen to two body lengths as the last lap (50m) approached. He wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.

The Czech announcer informed the audience after the race that he had set a new Asian record. At first, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The entire stadium stood up for him, which was a fantastic experience. Coaches, parents, and athletes approached me to express their congratulations. 

The fact that the 800m freestyle isn’t even his major event is noteworthy. Niranjan primarily competes in the 50m butterfly, 100m butterfly, IM (individual medley race, which involves all four strokes—backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle), and 50m and 100m freestyle (reaching his greatest world ranking of 10). The 800m freestyle was a one-of-a-kind event.

This para swimmer has been working hard in freestyle and mid-distance events over the last several months. His squad and coach, on the other hand, had no idea he was about to shatter the Asian record.

Niranjan’s Practise To Become A Champion

Niranjan is now practising in a national training centre in Berlin, Germany, in preparation for the World Para Swimming Championships in Portugal in June 2022 and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. He’ll compete in the 50m butterfly, 200m IM, and 100m freestyle at the world championships. After a postponement, these are his main emphasis events leading up to the 2022 Asian Para Games, which will be held in Hangzhou, China, next year. 

After the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, which concluded on September 5th, the Bengaluru para athlete started his first stint in Germany with the professional team SC Potsdam last year.

World Para Swimming Championships

Niranjan is now preparing for the World Para Swimming Championships in Portugal in June 2022 and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 at a national training centre in Berlin, Germany. He’ll compete in the 50-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley, and 100-meter freestyle events at the world championships. Following a postponement, the 2022 Asian Para Games will be held in Hangzhou, China next year. 

Following the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, which ended on September 5th, the Bengaluru para athlete began his first stint in Germany with professional team SC Potsdam last year.

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Coach Maik Zeh, who is also the founder and head of the Para Swimming Academy Potsdam, told him there that the club was seeking a butterfly specialist and decided to sign him up for the winter season the previous year. Following a two-month vacation, after the winter season ended in January 2022, he returned to the team in March. 

In both para and abled swimming competitions, he trains with world record holders, paralympic medalists, and German record holders. For SC Potsdam, he also competes in league events and short course championships on a regular basis.

Niranjan : The Para Swimmer

Niranjan was born in Bengaluru with Spina Bifida, a congenital abnormality of the spine that frequently results in paralysis of the lower limbs. He’s had 19 surgeries since he was born. He was completely paralysed below the waist until he was five years old. 

He was unable to walk or stand. He was carried everywhere by his parents. When he was five years old, a doctor conducted corrective surgery on both legs and advised his parents to enrol him in horseback riding or swimming lessons as soon as possible. He didn’t want to ride a horse as a kid, so he decided to try swimming instead.

Swimming Opened His Wings Towards Sports 

After corrective surgery to strengthen his legs, he began swimming for aqua therapy. However, water, as an element, gave him a sense of liberation and led him towards para swimming.

That’s how he became interested in the sport and choose to become a para swimmer. His parents quickly enrolled him in a swimming facility in Bengaluru’s Jayanagar neighbourhood. He initially stepped into a pool when he was seven years old, and instructor John Christopher recognised him after only six months. 

John, who is still Niranjan’s Indian coach, told his parents about para swimming and asked them to enrol him. He began training soon after, and success came almost immediately.

In 2016, the Karnataka government honoured him with the Ekalavya Award for his achievements in para swimming. In 2015, the Government of India presented him with the National Award for Best Para Sportsperson of the Year. 

During the 2018 World Para Swimming World Series, he broke the Asian record in the 200m backstrokes, winning more than 85 medals for India.

If you loved reading this story, you can also read about Telangana Autorickshaw Driver’s Son, Laxmikanth Reddy, Secured Admission To IIM Ahmedabad

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