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Basking in one of the finest form last year, Chandigarh’s Chahat Arora made quite a splash in the pool at South Asian Games in Kathmandu winning two medals – 50m breaststroke with a new short pool national record and 100m breaststroke silver respectively.
Having found her passion at an early age prompted her to pursue swimming as a sport. The continuous exposure to competition coupled with her hard work, ultimately propelled her to the national level and there has been no looking back.
Chahat is a student of MCM DAV College, Chandigarh and currently trains at the Panjab University Swimming Coaching Centre under the guidance of Gurcharnjit Singh.
The youthful swimmer talks candidly about her swimming journey so far and what lies ahead.
Swimming: A major part of Chahat’s life
“I began swimming when I was 3-year-old and I was introduced with this sport by my brother, I used to go with him and watch him swim. I was quite young but I quickly grasped the sport. I picked up swimming quite faster than other kids. Till now my journey has been truly astounding, it is quite similar to roller-coaster ride; there have been loads of ups and downs.
“Swimming has been a significant piece of my life and I don't think my life would have been the same without swimming. This sport has taken me to numerous places. I have seen so many countries, visited so many beautiful places, I have met beautiful people. I guess it has changed my life and made a person who I am today.”
Overpowers challenges to become a professional
“One of the major problems I have faced is that I belong to a small city called Chandigarh and we don’t have good facilities, good training facilities, good equipment and we don’t have good coaches. I have faced a lot of problem because of that. The other problem we had is that we don’t have many pools to swim, so we have to swim for 6 months and rest 6 months we were off the track. We don’t have better places to swim and that has been a big problem for me,” Chahat said.
“We have to swim for just 6 months because it’s quite cold in Chandigarh and there are various all-weather pools but having the facilities is not simply enough we need to have maintenance. We have all-weather pools but we don’t have warm water to swim. We have pools but we don’t have coaches and we don’t have the equipment. Overall, there are facilities but they don’t know how to use it,” she added.
Keep yourself injury-free; it’s not the training that matters, what matters the most is how quick and properly you recover
“I had shoulder problem since 2016 and the only regret I have is that whenever I have shoulder pain I use to ignore and start working hard. I thought it is quite tolerable and shouldn’t be going to my doctor. That’s the only part I did wrong, so my suggestion to other athletes would be when your body is asking you to stop you should stop over there. You shouldn’t push yourself because at the end your health is what matters the most. Try to be injury-free work hard but don’t overdo things that would injure you.”
“When you are going through such phase the most important part is to control yourself emotionally. I thought to quit sports because I never thought that I will recover from this injury. I am lucky enough to have such wonderful parent, they use to motivate me every day for my rehab session, my mom used to accompany me most of the times. They didn’t want me to leave swimming during that low phase, they want me to achieve more. I think if you face such problems; Never give up, just keep going and do as your doctor say. Keep researching about your injury, I did a lot of research myself when I was injured I used to create my rehab programme. I was particular about my rehab exercise and do it daily use to see my physiotherapist. It was nice to have such an amazing physio because in India we do lack good physiotherapist.”
“Everybody goes through a low phase during their career, that doesn’t mean you have to stop there. You just have to keep working on yourself; you just have to keep pushing yourself to do much better. After every training session, you should recover yourself more because, in the end, it’s not the training that matters, it is how quickly and how well you recover that matters. So just keep yourself injury-free.”
Parents: The pillars of strength
“The most helpful people in my career I would say are my parents. My mom, dad and my brother have supported me in every step of my life. They have by no means criticised me for anything even if I lose. If I do anything wrong they don’t condemn me, they know that I’ll learn as people learn from their mistakes.”
“My family always motivated me to do my best, to do what my heart says. They just want me to follow my dreams (that would be representing India at the Olympics, Asian Games) my parents are my biggest support in my career. I wouldn’t have been here if my parent wasn’t there for me.”
Dream of wearing a Tri-color comes true
“I always had that dream of donning the Indian Blazer like everyone. Every athlete wants that Indian tricolour flag in their chest. And this got real for me in the year 2016 when I got selected for my first international meet which was SAF Games held in Guwahati. The experience was amazing when you listen to your national anthem being played is like a cherry on the cake and I loved it. The experience was blissful.”
A strong believer of KARMA
“I don’t have any ritual or superstitions that I followed before the competitions but I am a firm believer of Karma. I believe ‘You reap what you sow’; so do good, work hard and the results will also be good.”
Every day you learn something new in Swimming
“The one thing that I love about swimming is every day is different, new workouts, every day you learn something new. Even after swimming for 18-19 years, I feel that each day I am learning something new. That helps me build my character and also changes me as a person. The other thing is that Swimming turned me from a weak person to a really strong woman I am today.”
Michael Phelps: An idol
"I idolise Michael Phelps the most like every other swimmer. He has been the most decorated athlete of all times. The thing I like most about him is his consistency. He represented the USA in 5 Olympics and won a lot of gold medals. His steadiness and hard work are what I appreciated and look to the most."
Plans and aims for 2020 and beyond
“My plans for 2020 would be to stay safe, stay fit and to stay motivated. The situation right now is not that good so the only thing we can do is to stay motivated. My goals are bettering myself, keep bettering my own time and take every opportunity that comes along the way,” Chahat revealed.
When asked to choose sport other than swimming; she tells that she will go with shooting sport if she is invited to represent India.
“I have seen that Indian shooters are doing quite well at the international level. with all due respect towards the sport, I think shooting is kind of a sport that doesn’t require that much physical training that we swimmer do; so yeah I would choose shooting.”
Speaking of her South Asian Games 2019 campaign Chahat said, “SAF Games was amazing and I got to learn a lot from it. The major highpoint used to be 50m breaststroke event in which I won a Gold medal and I even created a new national record with a timing of 33.36s for the short course meet.”
As the world is under quarantine phase due to the coronavirus pandemic and every athlete has their schedule during this self-isolation period. Chahat revealed her daily routine where she is spending his time working out at home and learning new skills that she is unable to learn due to her busy schedule.
“I am spending my time in this quarantine phase by working out at home. In the morning I use to do yoga and some kind of mobility flow. For the evening I use to do short interval training i.e., HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). The only thing I focused on is to make myself fit. I even learnt cooking in this quarantine which is the best part because I have never got the time to learn cooking. I learn things that I was unable to do because of my busy schedule,” the 22-year-old swimmer concluded.