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Young swimmers from Odisha dazzled at the recently held Thailand Age Group Swimming Championship 2023 by winning six medals in total across events.
The tournament which was held at the Aquatic Centre, Assumption University Suvarnabhumi Campus in Thailand, witnessed Pratyasa Ray, Shristy Upadhaya, and Pavan Gupta finishing on the podium.
Odisha's ace swimmer Pratyasa won two silver medals as she finished second in the 50m Backstroke event in which she clocked a time of 31.73 seconds. The 20-year-old also finished second in the 200m Backstroke, clocking a time of 2:31.51 seconds.
Meanwhile, Shristy clinched three bronze medals as she finished third in the 50m Butterfly event by clocking her personal best of 29.09 secs, in the 100m Butterfly event, she recorded her personal best time of 1:04.49 secs. She also finished the third 200m Butterfly event, clocking 2:32.37 secs.
Pavan, employed with the Railways bagged a gold medal in 50m Freestyle clocking 23.24 seconds.
Notably, a contingent of around 30 young swimmers travelled from India out of which 16 participants were from Odisha. Based out of the Odisha JSW Swimming High-Performance Centre in Bhubaneswar's Kalinga Stadium, the swimmers train under Sandeep Sejwal, Arjuna Award winner and 13-time national champion, who took to full-time coaching after retiring from competitive swimming.
Speaking about the experience gained by the youngsters from Odisha, Sejwal said: "It was a new experience as before this we have only travelled with participants who had exposure to international level. But this was the first time that I was travelling with a group where almost 90 per cent of the participants were travelling out of Odisha for the very first time. So, it was a different but nice experience."
Talking about the Thailand Age Group Swimming Championship 2023, which was an international exposure competition and witnessed the participation of young swimmers from various countries, Sejwal said: "It was part of the training plan because Senior Nationals and Junior Nationals are coming up later this year and ahead of it, we wanted to give exposure to our swimmers so that they can feel the pressure of competition. I am happy it worked out well with all of them improving their timing."
Meanwhile, Sejwal also praised the Sports and Youth Services Department, Government of Odisha and JSW Sports, who collaborated in 2021 to set up a High-Performance Centre in swimming and launched a comprehensive Grassroot Program with an aim to develop a robust culture for swimming and produce world-class swimmers from the state," the Arjun Awardee said.
Sejwal further revealed that since the beginning of the Grassroot Program by the Sports and Youth Services Department, Government of Odisha and JSW, more than 100 talented swimmers have been scouted for the competitive team of the state and this time, he is hopeful of Odisha winning medals in Senior and Junior nationals.
"These kids are really hard working and want to achieve something. Last year, we managed to put four of them into the top eight of the National Championships, so, hopefully, this time there will be more participants from Odisha who are motivated by last year's performances and can achieve medals in the Senior Nationals and Junior Nationals this year," he said.
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