Sandeep Sejwal is on a high. The 26-year-old Delhi-born swimmer had a field day in the 35th National Games in Kerala, where she snapped up four gold and two bronze medals- including three gold in his pet events - 50m breastroke, 100m breastroke and 200m breastroke. Sandeep, who won India’s second Asiad swimming medal in last twenty four years, is now gearing up for the 2015 World Aquatics Championship to be held in Russia. Sandeep, who is employed with Western Railway, spoke on various issues concerning swimming in an exclusive interview.
Q You had an impressive haul in the 35th National Games in Kerala, bagging four gold and two bronze medals.
It was really satisfying to deliver as I had expected prior to the games. I was pretty confident of winning gold in my three pet events – 50m breastroke, 100m breastroke and 200m breastroke. Winning another gold medal in the 4 X 100 M relay medley was a bonus. I was also happy to win two bronze medals in the 200 M individual medley and 4 X 100 M relay freestyle events.
Q So many big names like Saina Nehwal, Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar have skipped the 35th National Games in Kerala. But you took part and had a great run.
I always get excited about participating in the National Games as it is one of the prestigious events in the country. There was always attractive prize money announced by the Madhya Pradesh government – every gold, silver and bronze medals winners were to bag Rs 4 lakh, Rs 3 lakh and Rs 2 lakh. I ended up getting rewarded with Rs 17 lakh for my exploits.
Q Indian swimming did not produce an Asiad medal for 24 years since 1986 when Khazan Singh won a silver in the 1986 Seoul Asian Games until Virdhawal Khade picked up a bronze in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and you winning a bronze in the 2014 Incheon Asiad. Do you think that two back-to-back bronze medals in Asiad show that Indian swimming is heading in the right direction?
There is no doubt that Indian swimming is on the upswing. Two consecutive Asiad medal gives adequate reasons for all of us to be optimistic about Indian swimming. There are a lot of talented youngsters coming up across the country with Bengaluru serving as the swimming hub for so many years now. The future holds a lot of promise.
Q Do you really see Indian swimming taste its first Asiad gold in the 2018 Asian Games?
Well, there are a lot of factors which are not under your control – staying injury-free and in peak form is crucial. Gold is a realistic possibility although I don’t like to say precisely how many medals we are going to win in the 2018 Asiad.
Q There is feeling that there is a paucity of quality swimming coaches across the country, especially Bengaluru, which has two top-notch coaches. Your thoughts.
I won’t say there is scarcity of quality coaches in the country. I think most coaches outside Karnataka do not have access to desired facilities to groom their wards. There is no shortage of facilities, but coaches need access to all such facilities across the country.
Q There is a huge need for increasing the number of tournaments in the country, especially at the senior level. Your thoughts.
Absolutely! We should be having a senior-level tournament every month. Having more tournaments during the years will really develop our swimmers and allow them to raise the performance bar.
Q The 2015 World Aquatics Championships will be held in Kazan, Russia later this year.
The World Aquatics Championships serves as the Olympic qualifier and I will be keen on doing well. I’m hoping to finish in the top-16 and hopefully with better timings I will make the cut for the Rio Olympics.
Q What forthcoming tournaments are you taking part?
I’m leaving for Dubai later this month to participate in the Dubai Open – it starts from April 1-4. I hope to fare well in the Dubai Open.
Q How do you manage your finances for your training, diet etc?
Well, I end up spending around Rs 60,000-70,000 monthly – my supplements which come to around Rs 20,000, are sponsored. I stay in a rented accommodation very close to my training center and barring the supplements, I take of everything from my own purse.