Indian swimmer Niranjan Mukundan was born with a spinal deformity, an incomplete spinal shape.
That means 19 surgeries, missing school and lying for months.
At the age of seven, Mukundan was instructed to swim as an aqua medicine, allowing him to strike its most effective method against the lifeless living water.
At the age of 18, she won her first world medal and at the age of 25 rose to become the first Indian swimmer to win 50 world medals.
He was also nominated for the Junior Junior World Championships for his outstanding performance in 2015. Mukundan was also the last child to receive the prestigious World Award from the Government of India.
As a child, Mukundan could not walk and had to undergo surgery when he was alone.
Al Jazeera spoke to him about his travels, his struggles, his dreams and how he lived his life which he did not choose.
Al Jazeera: When did you realize you wanted to swim professionally?
From: In 2003, I started swimming as a treatment and realized that I felt like cathartic. I could not walk, but I could swim. There was no gravity to draw me in, I felt like a fish. Within three months, I knew that I was playing my game. He tells me that I was a very involved child and this fulfills my mind. What started out with the intention of strengthening my legs, let me know. The coaches saw me and felt that I could be trained in a para-game game representing the state of Karnataka. All this within six months. My parents were also at risk for sports.
Al Jazeera: What challenges did you face?
From: There was no awareness in India on the issue of apara sport. People don’t realize that we (various athletic athletes) run with very fast athletes. He didn’t realize it was an optional game. There are the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and the para-sports Olympics, too. We take the same pressure, if ever more, than regular players.
Al Jazeera: What do you experience as a disabled person?
Mukundan: For the first eight years of my life, I had to be carried. My parents carried me from my bedroom to the living room as well as family activities and relaxation. My friends and relatives tell my parents to give me food and rest me at home – why should I carry any luggage anywhere?
People think I will not stand alone.
In my younger days playing, people didn’t see the ideas behind my family helping me swim. He did not believe in competitive sports. My parents were advised to send me to a special school. But he did not hesitate to support me with everything I needed. We [disabled people] we seem so sad that we have a problem and we can’t do the things that ordinary people do. I want to show the world that we have a hidden potential that opens up for us and the community.
You don’t get the energy, you make it.
I hope to compete with them soon…@KirenRijiju @KamemeTvKenya @Alirezatalischioriginal @alirezatalischioriginal @alirezatalischioriginal #motivation #kuyakuma #books #chimonac # 2021 goals # zoyo2021 #Swimming pic.twitter.com/a3BTW2TOSV
– Niranjan_Mukundan (wSwimmerNiranjan) February 10, 2021
Al Jazeera: You mentioned that your family made you the job. Why?
Mukundan: I get all the help from home. It would not have been possible at a young age or even here, my family would not have been so supportive. Last month, my 81-year-old grandmother died of COVID. He was very encouraging, I was very close to him. My parents had to live out of town to work and they took me to classes on a regular basis.
Al Jazeera: How’s the trip to the mainland?
From: I was hoping to win a medal in my first state race but I lost very well. At that point, I began to question my future: Why was I born with a disability and wanted to give up my dreams? My swimming routine has been suspended several times due to operations. It has not been easy. But with each surgery, when I go back, I think I’m going to get stronger and stronger.
I tell myself that I have a mental capacity even if I recover physically. I recommend every day that I’m fine. Hard times are temporary. When you lose, you come out strong. Hold on to what you do well and repay your problems. During the closing session, when I couldn’t swim, I saw my training. Like the few times we insisted on studying outside the box I would have recovered after surgery. He made me look at it in every course, say 100 papers in a given time, 500 meters cold and so on.
Al Jazeera: What happens inside of you in your mind before and during the competition?
From: There is not enough time to think about the competition because it will not be very long. It’s just one lung. But I fall asleep before the race. In the morning, I sit still, have a light breakfast, and drink water. We were all scheduled to be in the auditorium before the competition. The atmosphere is there. Some athletes kick their legs, some coaches strike, others jump to loosen their muscles. I put on my headphones, put on Alan Walker’s “Alone” song and just walked out to release my nervous energy.
Al Jazeera: What changes do you want to see in the architecture here?
From: Para-sportspersons have done well since the last two Paralympics in sports such as swimming, track and field, table tennis and power lifting. We have proved our strength. For me, it was possible to continue with sports because my school provided me with cushions and support. He moves my education down and works extra hours with me. Schools should promote sport in all classes. Playgrounds across the country should be designed in such a way that they are friendly. There is progress there. And we need other helpers.
Al Jazeera: Injuries, surgeries … how do these complications affect you?
Mukundan: I do not feel falling on my knees and for this reason, for the past 10 to 11 years, I still have sores on my feet. This could force me to play the game for six weeks to two months at a time. There have been times when I have been properly trained but have not been able to attend those meetings.
I love the game and am proud of the brand that I wake up when I go back. Not everyone gets the chance to represent the country at the top. Because of my illness and the 19 surgeries I have received, it makes me look at sports differently. At first, it was just a round of applause and applause, and people commended me. Now, I want to understand, recognize my body and the miracles it can do. After every trial, I become mentally and physically fit. When the idea is right, medals just wrap around your neck.
The interview was rescheduled for length and illumination.