More often than not, talented children drop out of sports when they reach tenth standard; to perform well in board exams. But Ashritha Bharadwaj, is an exception. She continued to win medals even while studying for the all important, tenth standard exams. She also secured 90 percent. The medals she won, decorate a wall at her home.
She has won 11 national level awards in swimming and aquatic championships so far. She lives with her parents Nagesh and Srividya Bharadwaj in JP Nagar. Her father is a businessman and mother a teacher in Sri Rama Vidyalaya in Jayanagar. Now a science student at Deeksha – Jnana Sweekar college, Kanakapura road, the 15-year-old has big plans for the future.
You are just 15. When did you start swimming? And when did you realise that you wanted to take up swimming professionally?
I started swimming when I was in class 6. I used to do it only as a hobby. But in 2007, I participated in a national aquatic championship in Goa and won a relay gold medal. That’s when I decided to take it up professionally.
How do you manage your studies along with swimming?
If you really are passionate about something, you always find ways to get to it. I get up at 5.15am, and practice swimming till 8am. Then 9am to 4.30pm I am in college and come back by 5 pm. I practice swimming again from 5.30 pm to 8 pm. Usually I finish most of my homework in college so I get plenty of time to practice. I am really tired in the end, but it is worth it.
Medals at National aquatic championship competitions
She has won gold, silver and bronze medals in the 300 mts, 1500 mts, freestyle and relay race in 2007 and 2009 in Goa, 2010 in Bangalore, 2011 in Bhopal and this year, in Pondicherry.
Last year I was in class 10 but I did not want to leave swimming. So I continued the routine throughout the year. But during the last two months(of the academic year), I took a break from swimming and dedicated all my time for studies and secured 90 percent. While joining college too, we informed beforehand, that I will be devoting a lot of time for swimming. Only after they agreed, did I take the admission.
How has your family supported you through the journey?
My family has been extremely supportive. My mother kept my bag and tiffin ready for school so that my time is not wasted. She even packed my books for the day. She makes sure I have nutritious food, so that my body stays fit. My father gave a lot of his time to me. He ensured that I participate in all the competitions and traveled with me. They encouraged me whenever I was down. They really supported me in every way.
You had a breakdown in 2010 after the Bangalore nationals. How did you recover?
After the Bangalore 2010 Aquatic Championship, I lost a race and had a complete breakdown. During this time, I put on a lot of weight and was very depressed. Parents did explain but it was hard. That is when I went to counselling. Dr Chaitanya Shridhar who has a PhD in sports Psychology, counselled me and I joined a gym to become to be fit again.
Where do you practice now?
I currently practice in P M Swimming Center, Jayanagar. My coach John Christopher, helps me.
What are your future plans?
I want to complete my MS and become a heart surgeon. I also want to do a course in sports psychology so that I can help upcoming sports enthusiasts in achieving their goals. And swimming, I will continue taking part in various competitions that come my way. I want to participate in the upcoming South Asian games.
What are your hobbies other than swimming?
I like singing. I have also attended junior exams for singing. I was an active member of CMCA in school and took part in activities like e-waste management, planting trees and saving electricity. This helped our school bring down electricity bills from Rs 6000 per month to Rs 3000. Other than that, I don’t have time to do anything else.⊕