Image Credits: @veerkhatkar
In the cutthroat and unabated world of competitive swimming, Veer Khatkar has come in leaps and bounds in the last few years, with his 5-goal medals in Asia Pacific Youth Games, Russia winning him many accolades.
The 16-year-old a phenomenal freestyle swimmer, but someone who will have to prove himself against the sport’s elite. But then again, the Sanskriti Model School, Rohtak student has never feared challenging conventional wisdom.
As a child, Veer took up swimming as a leisure activity. However, when he started picking up strokes with speed and ease, his family encouraged him to try competitive swimming.
To further his development, he was selected to train at the National Swimming Academy in Delhi, a move which with the aid of hindsight, was the making of him.
The continuous exposure to competition coupled with his hard work, ultimately propelled him to the national level and there has been no looking back.
For Veer, each successful swim is an affirmation of the process. A testament to daily workouts — 5 hours a day.
The Haryana native won a gold medal at Asian Age Group Championships 2017 in Uzbekistan and secured 5 medals (2 gold, two bronze and a silver) at the 45th Glenmark Junior National Aquatic Championships 2018, Pune.
He is also the current National Record holder of U-17 100m freestyle swimming, will look to add extra intelligence to his sport which will match his physical qualities and new-found mental strength.
While Veer still has a lot of development ahead of him, he is on his way to being an impressive, young, swimming talent.
When looking at where you were as a school kid to where you are now, what is the biggest difference you see with yourself?
When I was in school, I was more focused on studies rather than sports but after choosing swimming as a career studies have become secondary thing for me. Now I am more confident and determined.
What goes in your mind when you are actually inside a pool?
The moment I enter the pool, I am totally a different person. It is like I am mediating and exercising at the same time. I just think that whatever my coach says I have to do that at all costs.
Some swimmers are allergic to chlorine, which could affect the competition. Sometime, they face the pressure of swimming as the favourite. Did you or any of your friend’s encounter the situation and how do they control all that?
Thankfully neither have I nor my friends have encountered this situation.
What's the craziest thing You've ever done in a swimming pool?
Once I had an underwater photoshoot for my school's prospectus.
Okay, let’s go back a bit and tell us a little about your life, background and your first tryst with swimming.
My Life is pretty simple. I belong to a middle-class family; my father is a veterinary surgeon and my mother is a professor, I have a younger brother, he is 14 years old. My father taught me how to swim when I was in class 2 so that was my first encounter with water. It has been a whirlwind of journey filled with challenges ever since, but it is great to continue to make a tangible progress in competitive swimming.
When did you become determined to take swimming as a career and how did that change your training schedule?
I chose swimming as a career in 2015 when I was in class 6. In the early days, I used to swim for about 2 hours a day but when I got selected in National Swimming Academy in Delhi, then, I realised that 2 hours is not enough and I had to practise for at least 5 hours a day with gym and dryland work too.
What's the weirdest deja-vu experience you've encountered?
My weirdest deja-vu experience was when my coach was yelling at me and I knew how he was going to punish me afterwards.
What are the top 3 things on your bucket list of things that you would like to do in your lifetime?
1) I really want to meet MS Dhoni. He is the person I admire the most.
2) I want to try skydiving.
3. I want to go on Europe tour with my friends.
What’s the one race that you are very proud of?
It was the Junior Nationals of 2018 and I was going to swim my finals for the 100m, I broke the national record by 2 seconds and after the race I got a standing ovation by the audience, I can never forget that moment.
Would you love to be an underdog or elite swimmer in your opinion?
Of course, an elite swimmer, it boosts up my confidence.
What will be your thought before the competition starts?
I like to keep my head empty of all thoughts except thinking about what I am going to do when I am swimming and I visualise my race.
Swimming is an individual sport. Even though there are swim teams and relays, at the end of the day you are swimming in one lane and it is your body and movement that results in success or failure in the competition. What did you do to keep yourself motivated in this individual sport?
Lots of people were motivated by their peers to do better and push harder and it is the same for me as well – my team, friends and family help me a lot to be focused and motivated at all times.
From your experiences, what is the best thing about being a swimmer?
I think the best thing about being a swimmer is that you get to travel and meet a lot of people across the globe, you get to know about their culture and they get to know about yours.
You must have swim alongside some good names already, who would be your ultimate competitor?
I think my ultimate competitor would be Srihari Natraj, he is 4 years elder than me and he is such an energetic guy, I really look up to him.
Is there anything about your swimming life you would have changed or done differently?
I started doing weight training at an early age which affected my height, it wouldn't have happened if I waited for another year or two so if I could change something then it would definitely be that.
To whom do you owe your success so far?
I owe my success to all my coaches, family and the most to myself.
Who is your idol and why?
My idol is American swimmer Caeleb Dressel and currently he is the fastest swimmer in the world.
What genres of music do you listen to while you’re working out?
While working out, I like to listen to pop music, mostly Punjabi and Haryanvi.
Studies or sports?
If you could eat one thing forever what would it be?
If I could eat one thing forever then it would be Maggi, being a hostel boy, it is a lifesaver for me.