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Poncha seeks big splash abroad
June 29, 2003 18:17 IST
With a string of national records under his belt, swim sensation Rehan Poncha is now determined to make a mark for himself on the international stage and qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The 16-year-old Karnataka swimmer sizzled in the pool at the Junior National aquatics championships, which concluded in Delhi on Saturday, grabbing the headlines with a cent per cent performance -- winning gold medals in the all the six events he competed in, and that too with some record or the other in all his four individual events.
His performance has raised hopes that India may have finally found a swimmer of class who can create ripples in international events.
But the lad is hardly allowing himself to get affected by the hype around him and is quietly determined to reach the Olympic qualifying mark at the World championships in Barcelona, beginning on July 22.
"I touched 2 minutes 9 seconds in my pet 200m butterfly event in the nationals, which is just five seconds more than the qualifying mark. I am sure of reaching the mark with some more practice and training," Poncha said. "I am already doing 10km a day and practising in three sessions. I am sure my hard work will yield positive results," he said.
Poncha, fresh from a training stint in Australia which boasts of one of the best swimming programs in the world, attributes his recent success to his stay Down Under.
"They inculcate the right attitude in you. It is just attitude which separates the champion Australian swimmers and us," said the athletic swimmer.
Poncha said he had finished fifth in the Australian nationals, a result which he considered was satisfactory.
"It is encouraging to know that I am not too far behind quality international swimmers. The second best swimmer in Australia is 17 and is clocking 2:04. At 16, I think I stand a fair chance of catching up with this mark," Poncha said.
Poncha trained under Bernei Mulroi in Australia and is keen to go back once again to fine-tune his skills further.
"But that costs a lot of money. I was lucky to have got a scholarship from the Sports Authority of India but I would need more such help if I were to go there again for a training program," said the youngster.
After the Barcelona championship, Poncha will be seen in action in Asian Age-group championship in China in August and the Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad in October.
"These couple of meets are also important as I will get a chance to rub shoulders with some of the big names in a strong field," he said.
Poncha admitted he was not used to so much attention from the media, which has been tracking him ever since his exceptional performance in the 30th edition of the junior nationals.
"I had come to the nationals to see where I stood exactly and was looking at it as a preparatory meet. But my performance here turned out to be equal to the best-ever Indian performance.
"I am also quite happy to have equalled J Abhijit's record in 400m individual medley which he set way back in 1995 at the SAF Games," he said, while thanking his coach Nihar Ameen and his parents for their support and encouragement.