Bengaluru: Shivani Kataria, only the third Indian woman swimmer to qualify for the Olympics, aspires to finish high in 200m freestyle at the Rio Games, starting next month.
“I have been selected for Rio, and my aim is to finish high in 200m freestyle,” she told PTI in a telephonic interview.
Shivani hopes that her participation at Rio would inspire other girls to take up the sport and pursue it professionally. “I realised I was the first female swimmer since 2004 to represent India at the Olympics. I want to use this opportunity to motivate and encourage more girls to take up the sport and pursue it professionally.
“India has a lot of talent and I believe that any female swimmer’s success would motivate other girls who might be afraid to try swimming,” she said.
On her training stint in Phuket, Shivani said she learnt a number of new techniques and trained alongside swimmers from around the world.
“I trained real hard in Phuket, used to swim triple sessions some times. I had dropped out of school just to focus on the Olympics. I also learnt many new techniques and got to train with so many swimmers from around the world, which was an amazing experience,” she said.
On how the Olympic qualification has changed her as a student of the game to a competitor, Shivani said, “Being only the third swimmer in history to represent India at the Olympics carries its own expectations, and I want to grow as a swimmer.”
Shivani said her long-term goal is to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games and win a medal there. “The long-term goal is to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and go one step further and win an Olympic medal there. My short term goals are to get good results in all my upcoming tournaments including the Nationals and World Championships. I am also looking forward to qualifying for the 2018 Commonwealth and Asian Games.”
Shivani said she faced no difficulty in choosing swimming as a career as her parents supported her. “I was just a normal kid before I started swimming. There was no difficulty in becoming a swimmer as my parents supported me in every way. When I was six years old, I use to go for summer camp in Baba Gang Nath Swimming Centre near my house and slowly my interest in swimming increased,” she said.
Shivani said she was looking forward to watching her idol Katie Ledecky live in action at Rio. “Now since I am going to Rio, I am going to get the chance to see my idol Katie Ledecky live in action which is a dream come true,” she added.