Image Credits: @Suvana
In recent years in Indian swimming, Karnataka have been one of the most productive conveyor belts of talent. One of the most notable individual product has been Suvana C Baskar.
Suvana grew up in a family of swimmers, with her mother, grandmother, and great grandfather all competed for the Karnataka state, so there is a clear swimming pedigree in her family and it was perhaps inevitable that the elegant and swift youngster would take it up as a career.
Suvana began racing at the age of six and quickly progressed through the ranks before forging her own avenue in the sport.
Suvana, who is the current Indian Women’s No.2 in the rankings is also an Asian age group medallist, Malaysian open gold medallist, Uzbekistan Open gold medallist and holds 10+ National records, 30+ Karnataka state records. Quite an impressive CV attests to.
Plying your trade abroad can teach a swimmer so much on and off the pool. The University of Illinois is a great place to get your feet underneath you in the professional swimming world, and as such, Suvana is in the right place.
A resilient swimmer and an astute backstroker, Suvana boasts tactical intelligence well beyond her years, and the technical ability to execute such demands, the 18-year-old continues to go from strength to strength in her development and steadies herself into a consistent performer, a goal that isn’t that far away.
The future knows no bounds as to the potential of Suvana and, to be honest, it’s up to her how successful she wants to be. The level of commitment and dedication to being the best she can possibly be will determine how far she goes in the cut-throat sport like swimming. For now, she needs to focus on her career and continue to put in performance after performance and the rest will fall into place.
We want to hear your story so let’s start at the top. What led you to swimming? How old were you, who introduced you to the sport, and what is it about swimming that resonated with you?
Most of my family members from my mom’s side were swimmers. My mother, grandmother, great grandfather – all swam for Karnataka. However, my dad is petrified of water so my mom put me in to learn swimming as a life skill. I first got in at the age of two but learnt properly when I was five and started racing at six.
By whom are you inspired a lot?
Roger Federer is my favourite athlete; I love the way he carries himself. In swimming, definitely, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Caeleb Dressel but five-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin’s life and career really influence me.
We all know that you are successful in your sport. But the first win and the first medal is always special. Do you remember your 1st success as a swimmer? If yes, how will you describe that moment?
I won my first state medal when I was nine years old. It was a bronze in the 50m backstrokes; I still vividly remember my coaches, my parents, my school – everyone was elated but honestly, I remember being dissatisfied as well. I am just the kind of athlete that never settle for less with the result, I always find a way to believe I could’ve been faster.
Has there been a turning point in your competitive career?
As a child, I used to fall sick very often, get injured and no one knew why but eventually when I grew up, took few medical tests we figured it out and I think since that day I just focussed a lot more on my body and health which made me a better athlete.
What is the biggest challenge you have come across in your career?
Dealing with my emotions. Recently, during the Uzbekistan Open, I just had to try and keep my head straight. I was alone there (with my coach and team though) but my family was down with COVID-19 which was freaking me out internally, so, I think getting past my fear and dealing with my emotions while racing away from home was hard.
Describe a situation where you had to make a quick decision in a race and what did you learn from that experience?
During my 100m backstroke event in Uzbekistan, I had to turn on a half stroke and decided to take an extra one which didn’t go well for me at all and messed up the rest of my race. That one experience costed me my goal time but I learnt a lot from it.
There are lots of rivalries in swimming, do you have one?
I do, but all of them are extremely healthy. As a backstroker, I race against the likes of Maana Patel, who is definitely my main rival but she is also one of my closest friends and biggest inspiration. I remember being a 10-year-old that had Maana as the wallpaper for my iPod.
I recently started racing the 100m freestyle. The fastest female in India is Kenisha Gupta who also happens to be my best friend, my roommate for every trip and camp. We have clashed in the 100 freestyle, 200m individual medley, 50m butterfly and we have seen races go both ways but nothing’s changed, ever! I love how we both get anxious for each other’s races, getting excited for one another and just how we are always there for each other. She is practically my sister.
Swimming on an elite pathway requires dedication and commitment; aside from providing funding and transport for training, how did your parents support you emotionally pre-competition?
Honestly, they just gave me everything I needed. I have never had to struggle for anything or ask for space, they have sacrificed so much and done everything they possibly could for me.
If you feel low after a race, how do you deal with the downtime and what keeps you sharp?
I am not a pleasant person to be around after a bad race, I get extremely frustrated and angry with myself but my godmother and Nihar sir (my coach) just have this way of talking to me that helps me fix my mind and get me back t0 where I was.
What are your favourite and least favourite training sessions?
I hate aerobic sets! LT’s are fun to an extent because it is the closest I get to racing.
What do you think your best performance has been so far?
Malaysian Open 2019 and Asian age group 2019
Is there a time record you’re aiming for?
Eventually to break 1:00 in the 100m backstroke and 2:10 in the 200m backstroke
What has contributed most to keeping you on the path you are on now? What is your goal for the next few years and your overall career goal?
My family and friends are the reason behind everything I do, they keep me going. I hope to qualify for a few Asian games including next year, Paris Olympics 2024 and 2028 Olympics.
If swimmers had a touchdown dance, what would yours be?
I can’t imagine myself having one.
Long stroke or slow stroke?
A mix of both
Which celebrity would you go swimming with?
Best compliment you have received
A few young swimmers told me I was their idol and a lot of parents have come up to me during competitions and said “it is a joy to watch you race”, that really means a lot to me.