India's next swimming star, Annie Jain has been honing her talent since the age of 8.
On January 31, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Khelo India School Games (KISG), which is part of the sports ministry’s initiative to bridge the distance between sports at the school and professional level.
Organised as part of the National Programme for Development of Sports, the inaugural edition of this national level grassroots games for under-17 school children saw students competing across 16 different sports.
There are two fundamental objectives to these games—increase participation and promote excellence. Through these events, the government is looking to strengthen the sporting ecosystem in this country at the grassroots level.
In the first edition of these games, there were a few athletes who stood out. Among them was 16-year-old swimmer Annie Jain from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, who won six medals—gold in the 100m freestyle, gold in the 50m breaststroke, gold in both the 100m freestyle and medley relay, silver in the 200m freestyle and bronze in the 50m freestyle event.
In the process, she became the only female athlete in the KISG to have won six medals, catching the attention of talent spotters and coaches.
During the KISG, the ministry and respective sports bodies assign each sport to a talent-hunt committee. What these committees are required to pick out two of the best athletes, who are then offered an annual sponsorship of Rs 5 lakh for eight years.
Annie’s success at the recent edition of the KISG is a testament to her dedication. She was only an 8-year-old when she started swimming. For the past eight years, she has worked rigorously on developing her abilities in the pool. Her dedication to swimming is apparent, considering the rigorous training regimen she undergoes.
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She wakes up at five in the morning for training, swims for a couple of hours, goes to school and immediately back in the pool, where she again trains for a few hours. For her achievements at the KISG, she was recently awarded the Star Sports Believe Honorary Plaque at her school.
Speaking to the press, she said the Khelo India initiative has presented her with a real opportunity to develop as a sportsperson. She aims to represent India one day.
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“The Khelo India Games was a huge opportunity for all the young athletes in the country. It provided a platform for us, one like never before. After participating in an event of this scale, I think we are now more confident of going to big tournaments in the future,” she told Sportskeeda last month.
In the immediate future, she’s looking to qualify for the upcoming Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires. Looking further ahead, Annie hopes to make it for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.