Indian swimmer, Bhakti Sharma, has set a world record by swimming 1.4 miles in 52 minutes in the chilling waters of the Antarctic Ocean. The 25-year-old is also the youngest in the world, and the first Asian girl to have made this feat, and has now conquered all the five oceans of the world. She is also a black belt in karate.
Indians aren’t globally recognized for swimming and this win has surely given the nation a small place in this hitherto unfamiliar territory. With this laudable win, Bhakti has broken the earlier records of British open water swimmer, Lewis Pugh, and American swimmer, Lynne Cox. She was only 22, and the youngest in the world, when she crossed seven seas, including four oceans, in 2012. She also won the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award in the same year. She has been pursuing open water swimming for the last 10 years. Akhilesh Joshi, the Chief Executive Officer of Hindustan Zinc, said, “We are very proud of Bhakti Sharma for this rare achievement. The whole country is proud of her and particularly girls who would be seeing her as inspiration to join swimming. Her achievement only proves that given the right support and opportunities, India can produce many such talents.” Hindustan Zinc had sponsored her Antarctic expedition.
Meanwhile, the country’s prime minister and president too congratulated the swimmer on her achievement.
When Bhakti, the eight-time Rajasthan state champion in competitive swimming, turned 14, her mother, Leena, encouraged her to try open water swimming. She started training for a 16-km swim in the Arabian Sea– from Uran Port to the Gateway of India in Mumbai. After successfully completing that stretch, she swam 36 km from Dharamtal Port to the Gateway of India.
Encouraged by this, she decided to take up the challenge of crossing the English Channel. She was only 14 then, while the minimum age for attempting the swim is 16.
The interim years gave her adequate time to prepare. During the cold Udaipur winters she would practice in the pool to get acclimatised to the icy waters of the English Channel. People called her and her mother crazy when they watched her swimming on cold winter nights. A month before her scheduled swim in the Channel, they went to Dover Port, England, where she practised in sea for four hours daily.
As is evident, these achievements have come after a lot of sacrifice and hard work. Her mother took voluntary retirement from her job at a reputed bank to help Bhakti chase her dreams. Moreover, her parents took loans to fund her training and travel. The English Channel Swim cost them around 12 lakh rupees, the Antarctica expedition cost them another 30 lakhs. Since the awareness about the sport is quite dismal in India, it was a struggle to find sponsors. But finally, Hindustan Zinc supported her in achieving her goal and Bhakti, in her part, brought laurels for the entire nation. The young swimmer expressed her gratefulness towards the Udaipur-based Hindustan Zinc for supporting her when she had lost hope on her mission and needed the support.
Incredulously enough, Sharma keeps up her spirits high in the seas by singing.
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