An enthusiastic An Punith says, “These awards are recognition of all the effort and perseverance I have put in over all these years. When the president said my name, it took me by surprise as I was not expecting to receive a first citizen award in our country. It was indeed a proud moment and it will help me push myself even harder in the events to come. ”
Punith’s immediate challenge is to represent India at the Asian Paralympic Games, which are due to take place in China next October. “I have started training for the qualifying rounds which will take place in July under the guidance of my coach, Sharath Gayakwad. I trained for two sessions, in the morning and in the evening, optimizing body positions, movements and leg kicks – key factors in determining the tempo for winning big tournaments.
During his career spanning more than a decade, Punith has won 13 international medals. However, the COVID outbreak was a setback for Punith as the pools remained closed and he was unable to train regularly. “It’s not just for me. The Covid affected just about everyone, so I took matters into my own hands. We don’t get sponsorship like we did before COVID, which hit us hard. Now, with the opening of swimming pools for athletes, without repeating what happened before, I take the most to train myself rigorously, ”he adds.
Punith has also won swimming championships in Jakarta, Poland, Berlin and South Korea. Although he trained in taekwondo, he decided to focus on swimming as there are no para-taekwondo events.
“I was an active kid so the transition phase was easy. The skills required for taekwondo and swimming are completely different. Courage and determination helped me grasp the nuances of swimming very early on, ”he says.