The 27-year-old became the first Indian swimmer to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Despite, a career-threatening injury, 27-year old swimmer Sajan Prakash refused to relent and continued to work towards his goal. He took a significant step in June 2021 when he became the first-ever Indian swimmer to achieve direct qualification to the Tokyo Olympics by beating the time set by FINA, as the ‘A’ qualification mark.

In an exclusive conversation with Khel Now, the Tokyo-bound athlete spoke about his growing years and his aim for the upcoming quadrennial event.

Lessons from home

It is easy to pinpoint where the love for sport comes from for Sajan Prakash. His mother was a top athlete during her time and that played a significant role in Sajan’s current success.

“Being a sportsperson herself, she understood things better. How to progress in the sport, the hardship every sportsperson faces. If you fail every time, how you would get back. It was good that I had a mother who understood me completely and understood my goal. She pushed me every time I failed,” reminisced the Kerala native.

Push from the coach

Another constant figure in Sajan’s sporting career is the rock of support that is his coach Pradeep Kumar. His positive presence has been a huge boost for the swimmer to push his limits.

“This achievement is for both of us together. There was a lot of effort from him. It was very difficult for me after the injury. The last one year has been an incredible journey. Especially, what we went through and had to overcome to reach this point.”

National Games glory

The National Games was first big moment for Sajan Prakash. The then 21-year-old took the nation by storm with nine medals and was chosen as the Best Athlete of the games. It was a surreal experience for the Indian ace, swimming in front of his home fans.

“It felt great to be at a level where fans are highly appreciative. In the National Games, I was extremely tired after five events. It was the crowd that boosted me and pushed me on. I was very honoured and proud of that,” said the Tokyo-bound swimmer.

The Rio Olympics

At the Rio Olympics, Sajan Prakash got to compete in the same event and rub shoulders with his hero Michael Phelps.

“Olympics is a stage for the top athletes in the world. It was a great feeling when I saw him. Because he has done so much for the sport. His achievements are really incredible. I felt really very happy. It was remarkable I got to compete with him in the same event,” said Sajan Prakash.

What could have been at Jakarta

The Asian Games 2018 was a topsy-turvy affair for Sajan Prakash. The event came at a tough time for the swimmer, with floods happening in his home state and his family’s safety being in doubt. Sajan reached the final, but missed out on a medal in the end.

“I expected a medal. Things always don’t go your way. We have to prepare for the worst situations and adapt to it accordingly. The floods were a really sad moment. However, any elite sportsperson will not let it get to the head during such occasions. The medal was 1.5 seconds away, at touching distance,” said the swimmer.

Making a mark in Tokyo

Sajan Prakash is very optimistic heading into the Tokyo Olympics. He feels more prepared and resolute to achieve his goal. “Now that I have more experience, I have to do my job better. I have to do my work every day and get better every passing day and I always believe in that. I will not let the people who believe in me down and will do my best to make them proud,” Sajan Prakash concluded.

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