Peiris the Lankan hope in swimming

Commonwealth and Asian Games 2022 – inside the perimeter: Swimmers improving, but there is work to be done

Since the International Olympic Committee took the brave stance of going ahead with the 2020 Olympic Games even year later with the Covid-19 pandemic at its height with very little counter measures or answers, the sports world has taken many progressive steps and the sports arena now looks as if it has reached the near normal or just normal status around the globe.  

The 2022 Commonwealth Games and the 2022 Asian Games are two such iconic show pieces where the athletic lovers around the stratosphere would be glued to their televisions actively engaged in the action on show. Remember there would be selected few who would be watching the action live from the designated venues for each discipline.  

Today GoodSport delves into the fortunes of swimming through the eyes of none other than Olympian Reshika Udugampola who took the Olympic dive in 2012 at the London Games. However, the 2022 combination on show will take place in Birmingham from July 28, 2022 to August 8, 2022 and Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China from 10 to 25 September 2022. 

GoodSport queried how the swimmers would cope with the pressures of facing two top most sports that is staged four years apart, but this time it so happens the two spectacles are almost one on top of the other.  

Olympian Reshika Udugampola observed “Let’s go a little back in the timeline. Last year action was rather limited. Prior to that there were longer lockdowns compared today. In a swimmers perspective or a swimmers world, you could put your 200% for four years and during that last hurdle if you come to a lockdown and when you have to take a month long break and after not been in touch in spite of having the dry training and ground work – I mean the actual swimming regime in the pool, all that work that you have been putting through during that time, they feel that it had been taken away from them. They touch, they don’t feel the water while swimming, it just slips through your hands. I were times when I experienced the same sensation. When I take a couple weeks of, I lose touch. You don’t have that rhythm. You lose that connectivity. Various athletes experience this in many ways. They have a lot of challenges when you get back to the pool after a while.  

“There is also a thing called vizualisation.  That has helped the athlete in the recent past. But, then again, all this work can be done but if you have not been getting that pool work done you are losing that touch. To get it back, it not physical work you have align your approach. Imagine an athlete who does not have that rhythm and touch after doing all that initial spade work – imagine the pressure and feeling – not being able to what you have reached all that time. So, it’s not just the physical work, but it is also aligning your mind and holding on to that focus. You must take a step back because you are not feeling that great, I am not saying that having two big competitions back-to-back. Leave alone two; preparing for one is a big challenge. I know now the pools are opening up; giving the limited circumstances, however you are also risking yourself towards this virus; I mean the chances of contracting is higher and the athlete is taking that risk. But they are willing to do that work not because you have to concentrate on two competitions. These two are not just general international competitions; these two are some of the biggest on the globe. We are talking about the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.”  

The youthful Olympian then added having two big competitions also could be good because there is not big gap between the two competitions. She was of the view that having two big games back-to-back you can retain your focus. You are focusing on one competition and then transforming that focus on to the other competition. She said “We target a competition; we bring our concentration to the highest level and continue with it. Since this is back-to-back, the backroom crew – the coaches, trainers etc. … they know how to prepare, they know how the technique works, I think even the athlete should be aware of these techniques. The athlete should know what works for him or she. Sometime what works for someone else may not work for you. If you in the professional level of competing and you have been competing for a long time your body knows what it needs. That has to be communicated to your coach, in my perspective if given the situation and what is happening in the world now, I think it is very good there is a close gap between the two competitions, because the athlete would be able to sustain their focus during the two competitions. Only thing that is needed is holding onto your focus – it’s like meditation. Its competition taper it down and get back to the next competition.”  

The GoodSport asked at that point, the pandemic is common to the entire world. So, the ups and downs are common to most of them.  Then Udugampola reminisced “Yes, the challenges would be common to most, but swimming is an individual sport, you have a coach, you have a mentor and you have the other people who are involved in your progress. But, at the end of the day it is the athlete that has to figure out how they are going to face the challenges at hand. Because this work can be put in, but on the race day in that pool on that block its everything that you have trained and how you have absorbed it in your mind.”  

GoodSport then asked as to why Sri Lanka especially during the big plunge has not done impressively. Udugampola in answer said “In my view, we are not quite there, but during my time we have moved pretty far. There are girls who are swimming under 1 minute in the 100metre free style, in my time we were close, but none were under 1 minute. Boys are reaching for that 47, 48secs region. Its great beat the 50s and be in the 40s.  Yet, we are a long way to go and lot of things to be accomplished. What we need here is improve ….. the whole system has to be improved in unison. 

“I see the hunger in the eyes of most of our swimmers. I see the among of work that they are putting in and how they are celebrating that whenever they reach their desired goal.  I wish if at least one athlete could come on that block and do what it is expected. We have had swimmers like Conrad Francis, Andrew Abeysinghe, Deepika Chanmugam and Julian Boling – yes, we have had them in the past and we still have Mathew Abeysinghe, Cherantha de Silva still performing well, while among the girls also there is quite a lot of female swimmers who are improving by the day.  I personally want to see our swimmers excel during these two competitions.