Here is an Interview with India’s Olympian Swimmer Shivani Kataria. She tells about the sport she would have chosen if not swimming.
What made you choose swimming over any other sport?
During the summer holidays, my cousins and I used to go for swimming for the summer camps. My father always said that no matter what, you need to know how to swim. So with that intention, he enrolled my name in the swimming pool near me. I was around 6 years old when I started to swim. During the winters I used to play tennis but the love for water attracted me more, so I tried to focus on swimming than any other sport.
Who was your main source of inspiration when you started swimming?
At that time I only knew Michael Phelps as I used to see his photos in the newspapers as well as YouTube. I was also inspired by Missy Franklin. I mainly learned the discipline these swimmers had and I tried to acquire that skill.
In what way did your parents support you?
Well, my parents were extremely supportive towards my swimming. They never opposed my choices and decisions. Without their emotional and financial support, I couldn’t have reached where I am today. I made a decision than I wanted to go to Bangalore for practice because practising in winters was extremely difficult in Gurgaon, and my father was fine with my opinion and readily agreed.
Gurgaon is a village and people here used to tell my father that Swimming costume doesn’t look good on girls. She won’t look good when she grows up. But my father didn’t pay attention to what others said and always supported me.
Coaches play a very important role in a player’s career. Who were the coaches you were blessed with and who was the special one from them?
My first coach was from Gurgaon and his name is R.N Yadav. I still visit him. He trained me when I started my swimming and has been an important figure in my career.
I currently train under Pradeep Sir and Jairaj Sir.
All my coaches guided me for life, not just swimming.
I have always discussed with my coaches about which decision is correct.We also discuss on which tournaments to focus on and which tournaments to skip.
What was your practice schedule and how did you manage swimming along with studies?
I think everything is about time management. I had made a schedule and stuck to it seriously. In the morning I practised for 2 hours, then had breakfast and studied for a while. I had a gym session and again studied for a while. In the evening I had a 2 hour session, had dinner and studied for some time.
I never studied the day before the exam and what I feel is, if you are in touch with the books, you don’t lack in studies.
How did you decide that you are going to choose 200m freestyle as your main event?
I love the 200m event and mainly chose it because it went along good with the way I swim. 200m is not a too short or too long event. My start is slow so 200m allows me to cover up the distance if I lack a bit.
I have a strategy which is: Long 100 and then Strong 100.
I get a chance to cover up with other swimmers in the 3rd 50m. I enjoy this event and also I am good at it. I am also very close to the qualifying time in the event so I work hard and always try to be focused to qualify for all major events.
I have also participated in 50m, 100m events but I missed Gold Medals because my start wasn’t that good.
Probably representing India at the Olympics in 2016 was the best moment of your life. Please tell us every inch of that moment.
It was like a dream come true moment for me. I always wanted to reach that level which eventually made me eligible to qualify for Olympics.
I couldn’t perform brilliantly at the Olympics and I was disappointed. But my coaches always held my back and told me that 50% of the athletes don’t give their best at the Olympics because of the nervousness and pressure.
Olympics is definitely the best moment for me, but there were other events where I could give my personal best. I enjoyed those moments as well.
You hold so many national records. How do you manage to remember them?
It is a great moment when you create or break a record. Like almost everyone I love to remember the records I have broken. I broke a 12 year record and it was a special moment for me when the recent record holder congratulated me for that. It is definitely a happy moment when you achieve something like this.
If someone breaks my record I make sure I go and congratulate that swimmer because breaking any record is not easy.
Another thing is, breaking a record should never keep you satisfied. You should always aim for more and work hard towards reaching more heights.
People love to criticize players more than they appreciate them. How do you handle criticism and negativity?
It depends on what people say about you. If people say that ‘Shivani has a slow start.’ Yes, definitely I would take this comment and work on it. But if people comment on things which are not related to swimming I usually don’t pay attention to it and try to ignore the statements if they hold no meaning.
How do you keep yourself motivated? What do you do when you feel low?
I usually talk to my parents and that helps me a lot. If I am not happy with my results during the practise sessions, I talk to them after my practise. Talking to them helps me a lot and I feel good and motivated.
They usually tell me that not being satisfied during workouts is better than skipping them.
So their advices always help me a lot. There are days when I feel like skipping the practise but I tend to attend to practise sessions even if I am mentally tired or frustrated.
You are active on social media as well. It is a format where you can connect to people directly. What are your thoughts about how should sports stars approach social media?
Social Media is a blessing as well a curse. I usually tend to stay away from my mobile before tournaments which might distract me a bit. I love to post about the places I visit when I am not practising. Posting about various cafes, historical places feels good.
Social media also helps us to connect or follow the players who don’t have that much attention and popularity. Because of Social Media I came to know about Indian Taekwondo Players who are performing brilliantly but are out of the lime light.
I have posted a photo with Virat Kohli during a sports ceremony. That was an amazing moment and he and his foundation has supported me a lot from 2017 and meeting and talking to him was like the ‘Oh My God’ moment.
How do the government and the federation help the swimmers?
The conditions are too good compared to what they were before. Khelo India and TOPS are the initiatives which are going to help the youngsters a lot. The support is getting better and better day by day.
Sports organizations like Virat Kohli Foundation, GoSports Foundation are working brilliantly and all sportspersons are getting benefitted.
I think the government and federation needs to look a little bit into the basics as well. Like in Haryana we don’t have a heated 50m pool and we have to travel to Delhi for that. Basic facilities and a good coach is what is needed in every state and the improvement will be massive.
We all have heard and read about the incident which took place at the Lovely Professional University for All India University Games. What are your views on it?
I wasn’t there at the Games but I have heard a lot about it. What I liked about that is, swimmers strongly protested against it and everyone supported them. The incidents happened were not in favour of the spirit of the game but such incidents do happen in sports which needs to be improved.
Probably the officials would take care about it the next time they are in charge. Maybe they will have the fear of doing something wrong. Until and unless each of the technician and official decides to be extremely fair, such incidents will continue to happen.
We just hope that the mistakes made won’t happen again and it won’t affect the game overall.
What is the message you will give to the youth?
Enjoy your sport and don’t just focus on results. Enjoy the process of training and then winning.
Losing is a part of the game and don’t give up even if you face defeats or you are unsuccessful. No one is completely unsuccessful in life and if you keep trying you will definitely see the positive change in you.
Let’s take a rapid fire round!
Training in India or Abroad?
If not 200m Freestyle which event you would have participated or chosen?
Your favourite Indian and Foreign Swimmer?
Indian Swimmer is Shikha Tandon and Foreign Swimmer is Katie Ledecky.
One other sport apart from swimming you love?
The clarity of thoughts that Shivani Kataria has, definitely makes her one of the most amazing and talented swimmers India has ever had. Her politeness and never give up attitude is what each young swimmer should aspire for.
We at SportsBeatsIndia wish her All The Best for her future!