Rising swimming star Apeksha Fernandes is one to watch out for!

From Gertrude Ederle to Simone Manuel, female swimmers have a longstanding history in breaking barriers not just for their impact in the water but also for their pursuit in promoting equality in sports. Apeksha Fernandes at just 15 years old has already created an impact both domestically and at the international stage. She holds 9 national records in Junior Nationals and is the current Junior National Champion holding the best timing for Indian women in 200 meters breaststroke in both long and short course. With a total of 146 gold, 61 silver and 31 bronze medals to her name, she has been felicitated with the best swimmer trophy by the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Sri Vijay Rupani. 

apeksha-fernandes Rising swimming star Apeksha Fernandes is one to watch out for!

In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Apeksha reveals her journey so far, the unique challenges she has faced in pursuit of excellence and balancing school and swimming to keep her ambitions alive.

At what age did you start swimming and when did you realize that it’s a sport you want to compete in?
I started swimming at the age of 5, a happy toddler waddling behind my mother. I would accompany her to the pool and just splash around in the water and be in a world of my own while she swam. She was the one who introduced me to swimming considering how much I enjoyed myself in the water. I learnt how to swim when I joined a summer swim camp headed by my current coach, Dr. Reddy. We started from floating to kicking lessons and then proceeded to stroke development. It was during this camp that my coach selected me and decided to train me for competitive swimming. Initially I swam for participation and exposure and I started picking up interest and gold medals at national meets not before the age of 12. I like the feel the competitions have. The blocks, lanes, racers and the adrenaline. There is no better feeling than adrenaline coursing through your veins before any race and that is one of the main reasons I enjoyed racing.

Who has been the biggest motivating factor and support in your journey?

My parents have been the biggest source of motivation for me. They’ve always stood behind me through thick and thin and have never left my side no matter what. I have nothing but respect for the dedication and relentlessness. They have guided me and have played a major role in where I stand today. Michael Phelps and Serena Williams are two people I look up to as they are the phoenix, a majestic bird known for rising from its ashes and they serve as the human embodiment of the same.

What would you consider as your greatest achievement so far? 
My greatest achievement till today would be winning medals for our country. I’ve won quite a few medals at the international meets I’ve participated in, but the medal resting on my chest, our national flag draped around my shoulders and standing on the podium listening to our national anthem would be the highlight in the South Asian Games.

What are the challenges you have faced in your pursuit to compete? 

The major challenge I’ve faced till now would be fear. As an eight-year-old, I was constantly inhibited by the performance of my fellow athletes. Seeing them constantly bag every single medal and championship trophy, I always thought that they were invincible and that I could never be at par with them. I was able to perform only after I broke away from the fear.

apeksha-fernandes-2-1_gscefS8 Rising swimming star Apeksha Fernandes is one to watch out for!

As a student who is still in school, how do you balance your education with swimming? 

I’ve been able to balance and succeed in both because of the tremendous support I’ve received from both my parents and my school. The school has played a vital role in my success as it has always stood by me and given all the help and support ever asked for. My principal, Madam Jane Kotian along with her team would go out of her way to help me in any way possible right from allowing me to report to school much late and giving me leave whenever asked for, to coordinating with the teaching staff to aid in better understanding of topics I missed out in class and even exempting me from writing major examinations. All our requests were always approved and she has been very warm and approachable at any given time. My parents have been helping as well, right from driving me from the pool to the school and back to teaching me at any given time of the day regardless of their busy schedules.

Tell us about your experience training under Dr. Mohan Reddy 

Training under Dr, Reddy has been very interesting. Everything about the schedule has never failed to motivate me into giving it my all during the training and at the meets. He has been very unique in raising our spirits and has always been very enthusiastic and passionate about swimming and training. He has been able to establish a very beautiful and strong student and teacher bond among all the swimmers under him.

How do you think India can improve in terms of infrastructure/ facilities/ training etc. so that swimmers can compete at the highest level? 

In my opinion, sports other than just cricket need media visibility along with sponsorship and support from the government. The lack of infrastructure, passion and scientifically trained personnel along with a well trained and equipped team of support staff leads to many competent and performing athletes training in countries abroad. Many of these elite athletes use their achievements in sports to present themselves as all-rounders in their resume and get admissions in the best universities abroad. Similar to brain drain, this is how India loses many of its promising athletes.
However, the government has recently launched various schemes in order to support and nurture young and growing talent and we hope that it reaches many deserving and upcoming athletes.

apeksha-fernandes-1 Rising swimming star Apeksha Fernandes is one to watch out for!

What are your goals for the future? What would you like to achieve?

As I firmly believe that one can balance both academics and sports, it is my dream to pursue a career in the field of biomedical science and research along with training during my college years and god willing, to represent the country.


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