Rutuja Talegaonkar is a 3-time Khelo India champion. She also won three gold medals at the 2019 All-India University Aquatic Championships. Now 20, the Nagpur-based swimmer shares a bit about her life and incredible journey with Kreedapanti.
How Did You Get Into Swimming?
I started swimming during a summer camp at the age of 6.
My parents decided to put me in a summer camp for my overall development which had a swimming lesson. In the beginning, I used to hate it and cry a lot when they used to push me in the water, but the feeling of accomplishment that suffused me the first time I completed a 25 metre track without float was unlike anything else, and soon, I wanted more of it.
Winning my first gold medal at a district competition made me realize that this is what I want to do. This is my passion. Swim and make my country proud.
What Inspires You?
The feeling of the first medal in my hand, that moment of pride, of being a winner, that motivates me to this day. It gave me the hunger to achieve more and not give up.
Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky have been my role models since I started competitive swimming, for the sheer amount of hard work, dedication and honesty they bring to the sport.
I definitely want to follow in their footsteps.
Tell Us A Bit About Your Journey
To be honest, my journey has been slow and steady, occurring one step at a time. I never achieved overnight success, as the saying goes. I began with small victories at the district level, leading to bigger victories at the state level, and finally, I became a National medalist. Seeing my hard work pay-off off kept on motivating me to do better and win more titles. When I represented India twice, I felt like everything I had put in, all my effort, was worth it. That I had finally contributed to my country.
How did you practice for the nationals?
Before my national and international championships, I used to have swim sessions twice a day followed by one gym session. I focus more on the process than the results as I feel the journey of experience, practice and learning is as important as the end goal. In fact, it is what builds your victory.
Giving my 100% at training built my confidence and made me believe that I could emerge victorious.
How Did You Overcome Your Obstacles?
I’ve had many failures in my journey but rather than being sad, I took them as a challenge. My obstacles only made me tougher. I always aim to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them.
How Was Your Experience For India?
My debut representing India was surreal. It was a dream come true for. Holding the tricolour in my hand and competing with athletes from all over the world made all the hard work worth it.
What Is Your Next Goal?
My dream is to participate in the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games for India and hoist the tricolour high.
“The harder you work for something, the greater you’ll feel when you achieve it.”