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Swimming

Meet India's most consistent diver Siddharth Pardeshi who dreams of the Olympics

Siddharth made his international debut as a 17-year-old during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and has also represented the country at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. Besides, he has also bagged multiple medals at the South Asian Championships and AASF Asian Age Group Championships during the course of his seven-year career at the top level.

Siddharth Bajrang Pardeshi (Source: sid_diving/Instagram)
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Siddharth Bajrang Pardeshi (Source: sid_diving/Instagram)

By

Abhijit Nair

Updated: 2021-05-17T09:42:40+05:30

Diving is not a very popular sport in India and apart from Sohan Singh and Anasuiya Prasad competing at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, India's achievements in the sport has been pretty limited.

So when there were murmurs about an Indian diver having the faintest of chances to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the excitement was at its peak. Though it did not pan out as one would have liked, Siddharth Bajrang Pardeshi with his determination and hard work promises a lot more for Indian diving to cheer for in the coming years.

Siddharth made his international debut as a 17-year-old during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and has also represented the country at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. Besides, he has also bagged multiple medals at the South Asian Championships and AASF Asian Age Group Championships during the course of his seven-year career at the top level.

Sidhharth bagged multiple medals at the South Asian Championships and AASF Asian Age Group Championships during the course of his seven-year career at the top level.

Born in a sports-loving Maharashtrian family, taking up sports was never an issue for a young Siddharth. With his father being a sportsman himself who coached the Maharashtra kabaddi team to the 'Khelo India title last year, Siddharth was always encouraged to play sports.

"I started diving in the year 2006 as a nine-year-old. My father always encouraged me to play whichever sport I want. My elder sister had joined swimming classes, so I tagged along with her to try my hand at swimming. I was not good at it and so just switched to diving and started enjoying it," the 24-year-old told The Bridge.

Siddharth started diving at his hometown of Nashik and practiced at a pool in the city for almost a year, before being picked up by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Balewadi purely on the basis of his talent.

Once selected by SAI there has been no looking back for the youngster who has since progressed almost seamlessly and currently trains at the Army Sports Institute in Pune.

Though he had made his international debut in 2014 and had started winning medals at the Asian level since 2015, Siddharth's progress was relatively slow. He wanted to improve and wanted to be able to give the best in the world a run for their money.

Stuck in a lockdown for around two months in Russia, he returned to India via a Vande Bharat flight somewhere in August 2020, with the sole aim of making it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

It was at this moment that he heard about a one-year scholarship being offered by FINA at their Development Centre in Kazan, Russia. Siddharth applied for the scholarship and much to his delight he was selected!

"I went to Kazan after winning the scholarship in July 2019 and was supposed to train there and improve my skills for a year. It was difficult. I had to tweak my technique a bit to the Russian style, but I was learning. Yes, one year is not much for all this but the pandemic did not help either," Siddharth said almost regretting his fate.

Stuck in a lockdown for around two months in Russia, he returned to India via a Vande Bharat flight somewhere in August 2020, with the sole aim of making it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Qualifying for the Olympics was not an easy task by any means. But with all that he had learned at the Development Centre, he was well placed to earn at slot at the quadrennial event. Sadly, it was not to be.

"I had a very good chance of qualifying for the Olympics this time. But, it was not to be. My body did not respond as I would have liked on the day and I was out of contention in no time," Siddharth sulked.

He surely knows he could have done better and created history, but is now looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead.

"I guess I was somewhere stuck between whatever I learnt at Kazan and what I have been practicing since childhood. I was neither here nor there. I messed up a golden opportunity and there is nothing I can do about it now. I am back to training, trying to improve, and looking forward to the next Olympics."

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