Finals In The Flood: Kerala Swimmer Sajan Prakash Makes History At The Asiad Finals Amidst Trouble Back Home

For 24-year old Sajan Prakash, the unprecedented flooding in Kerala will forever be a bitter-sweet personal memory. While this professional swimmer paddled his way into history by becoming the first Indian to clear the Asiad finals in the 200m butterfly event since 1986, his mind was trained on distressing news from home. Water was wreaking havoc back in his native district of Idukki, and his kin was missing. In the chronicle of the devastating Kerala deluge, this story is almost poetic in its irony.


Picture courtesy: Indiatimes

In the 200m event final, Sajan set a national record of 1:57.75, but could only finish fifth. His mother Shantimol, a former international athlete herself, attributes this to troubling accounts from his native place. His maternal grandmother, uncle and his family lived close to the Cheruthoni dam on the Periyar river in Idukki, an area that was fully immersed when the sluice gates were opened to check the rising water levels. There was no information about them, and the family could not contact them either. To top it off, there was a landslide in the area that had claimed many lives. Though she tried to keep the upsetting report of the water-induced calamity from him ahead of the finals, Sajan got a wind of it from his friends.

He admits to having spent a sleepless night prior to the Asiad event. "I had trained very hard for this day. I was very nervous. But I guess the experience of performing under pressure helped me see this through,” he says. Speaking about his family, he added, "I still don't know where and how they are. All I know is they are being taken to some safe place. I pray for their safety.” The family also lost their house and properties to the fury of the water.

Though he qualified as the third-fastest swimmer in the event while setting a national record, he and his family are upset at stopping shy of winning a medal for the country. They believe that he would have won under different, less painful circumstance. Sajan hopes to overcome his distractions and focus on his performance in the upcoming events in the Asian Games. “I am trying to convince him to focus on his events. He has worked very hard for this, he shouldn’t be worrying about things that are not in our control,” his mother says. 

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