Trapped on a farm, swimmer SP Likith training inside an irrigation tank

CHENNAI: Although most of the country's sports stars are confined to the four walls of their homes, swimmers SP Likith you are in the company of nature. The 21 year old Tokyo Olympics hopeful he's been training with the coach Partha Varanashi on the latter's farm for the last month and a half.

My coach, who is a polyathlete and an organic farmer, has a large farm of more than 100 acres near Puttur, which is located on the border of Karnataka and Kerala . The area where we are staying is surrounded by thick forests, and you can say I am stuck in a jungle," Likith told TOI.

Had things been normal, the Karnataka swimmer would have been part of the team preparing for the Olympic qualifiers. But Likith’s plans have gone haywire. "I arrived at my coach’s farm in the last week of February for a two-day workshop and have been here since then. We are about 25 of us – including 15 swimmers in various age-groups – who have made this farm our home," said Likith.

Once things return to normalcy, Likith, whose main event is the 100m breaststroke, will try to clock 59.93 seconds, which is the ‘A’ qualification mark for Olympics. "Currently, my best timing is 1.02.02 seconds which I achieved at the Malaysia Open last year,"he said. The absence of a swimming pool hasn’t deterred Likith from engaging in his core activity. "We train inside a water tank measuring 24 by 20 metres, which is primarily kept for irrigation purposes. I swim four times a week,"he said. Likith spends ample time listening to the chirping of birds, watching wild boars and snakes. "There are over 120 species of birds here. Spotting wild boars, snakes and scorpions is common here," Likith said.

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Likith is making use of the lockdown period to indulge in other sporting activities too. "There is a ramp inside the farm which I use for skateboarding and I also do slacklining. Taking part in these activities helps me work on different skill set for which I did not have the time earlier. I feel the activities will help me increase my stability and agility,"said Likith. While the food supplies on the farm will last for a few more months, if the lockdown gets extended beyond that, Likith will have no choice but to join the workers on the farm. "So far we are good but the coach said if things get worse, we will have to work on the farm," said Likith.

He is grateful to the GoSports Foundation for their help in these testing times. They organized a session with an experienced sports psychologist Divya Jain who highlighted aspects of mental well-being and how to keep stress at bay during this period," he said.