Unlike Cricket, swimming is not a celebrated sport in India. More so, there are only a few training centers in India which have good swimming facilities. Thus, for a small town girl to dream of competing at the international level is next to impossible. But, not for Bhakti Sharma. This 26-year-old swimming sensation is the youngest swimmer to swim in all five oceans. Being the recipient of Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award, Bhakti is now eyeing the Olympics.
What made her reach great heights is not only her talent, but her courage to never give up. Her love for water began at the age of two when her mother pushed her into the deep end in a 12-meter swimming pool. Trained by her mother-cum-coach, she became a national champion at 14.
Coming from the desert city of Udaipur, swimming pools were a luxury. Her mother took an annual membership of Rs 5,000 with a private hotel and trained her daughter for an hour every day. Plus, there was no all-season swimming pool in Rajasthan, and all the pools would be shut down for the winter. They had to request the owners to open the pool to train.
At 16, she conquered the English channel along with her mother Leena Sharma and friend Priyanka Gehlot in a three-member women’s relay team.
Not only this, she set a world record in 2015 by swimming the Antarctic Ocean(2.28 Kms) in 41.14 minutes. She became the youngest person in the world and the first Asian girl to do so.
During the Antartica swim, due to its extreme conditions, she was almost about to give up but a penguin became her messenger of hope. She tells an interesting incident that made her conquer Antartica,
‘The salinity of the water hit me instantly after I jumped in. It made it very hard to pull through each stroke. But then I remembered a poem my friend had sent when I was training for the swim. The lines were – “Don’t give up when you are hardest hit. Rest if you must but do not quit.” After a few minutes, I saw a penguin swimming under my belly. It came up on my left and just kept swimming with me. This made me smile and I told myself that this is meant to be. I am meant to do this swim.’
After having conquered all the five oceans, she is striving hard to compete at the Olympics games. But at the same time, she is also struggling to find a sponsor. We hope she will swim her way to glory and will continue to inspire more women.
Want to know about women who are winning in the world of sports? Then, don’t miss this article on promising women athlete.