Kanchanmala Pande created history when she became the first Indian to win a Gold medal at the World Para-Swimming Championship. She secured the first rank in the 200-metre medley event in the S-11 category.
The S-11 category includes athletes who have very low visual acuity and/or no perception of light.
The 26-year old swimmer from Amravati, works with the Reserve Bank of India in Nagpur and is a regular at the Aqua Sports Club there. She trains under Pravin Lamkhade, ASCA Level-1 Coach, and assistant coach Shashikant Chande.
Pande missed a podium finish in the 100-metre freestyle by a small margin, securing the fourth rank and secured the fifth rank in 100-metre breaststroke and backstroke.
However, her Gold medal in the 200-metre medley deserves to be commended.
She was confident about a good performance in the championship, but the well-deserved first rank came as a surprise for her. Pande told TOI, “I had prepared well for the World Championship. I was expecting a good show in Mexico and also a medal. But, securing the top position and a gold medal at the world championship is surprising. I am thrilled.”
Although the results in Mexico are admirable, Pande’s experience in the Berlin qualifiers had proved equally challenging. The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) failed to provide her with enough funds during her trip to Berlin, although she was promised it was all paid-for.
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Pande was forced to take a loan of ₹5 lakh when the PCI declared that they would not be able to pay for the trip since their accounts were blocked. She was even forced to face an embarrassing situation when she was fined for travelling in a tram without a ticket. It was the responsibility of her coach to buy the tickets. He had also enrolled her name in the wrong category for the qualifiers.
None of these challenges would stop Pande from winning laurels.
She successfully beat the qualifying mark in 100m Freestyle (1:34:00), 100m Backstroke (1:41:00), 100m Breaststroke (2:01:00) and a silver 200m Individual Medley (3:03:00) in Berlin. She was the only Indian to qualify for the women’s category.
Pande’s husband Vinod Deshmukh has been incredibly supportive of her journey. Her health and fitness are looked after by Dr PK Deshpande, fitness trainer Sachin Deshmukh and physiotherapist Dr Kevin Agrawal. She dedicates her win to the doctors, her husband, and her coaches.