Saturday, May 30, 2020 | ePaper

BREAKING NEWS:

Crocs and rays no problem for unsung Asian swim heroes

  • Print



The plucky swimmers of far-flung nations who train in the sea where stingrays and crocodiles lurk are ready to strike a blow for the sport's minnows at the Asian Games.
As Olympic champions such as China's Sun Yang and Japan's Kosuke Hagino soak up the limelight, simply getting to Jakarta has been a remarkable achievement for the fresh-faced hopefuls from the Maldives and East Timor.
Better known for its sun-kissed blue lagoons, the Maldives is no island paradise for its competitive swimmers, who regularly suffer jellyfish stings in the murky waters off the capital Male.
"We see jellyfish and stingrays mostly and sometimes eels so I get pretty scared," 14-year-old Hulva Khulail told AFP.
"I've been stung so many times," added the pint-sized schoolgirl, who takes the plunge in the 50, 100 and 200 metres breaststroke in Jakarta.
"It itches so much you have to stop and pour vinegar on it. And also the sea is very polluted."
Such is the parlous state of swimming in the Maldives there is no proper pool available.
Khulail and team mate Haish Hassan instead use the Indian Ocean, sharing a 25-metre area marked out by floating blocks with fish and other creatures -- often at night.
"It's hard for us to swim in a pool because the water is very dense," explained science buff Hassan, also 14, who will tackle the backstroke and breaststroke, plus the 400m freestyle.
"The seawater is easier to swim in, but sometimes practice gets cancelled because of the water pollution. We've all complained about it."
Another swimmer poised to become one of the unsung heroes of the Games is East Timor's Imelda Felycita Ximenes Belo, who only learned to swim five years ago.
The 19-year-old trailblazer will be the first Timorese swimmer to compete at the regional event, which officially opens on Saturday.
But Belo, whose role model is American Olympic star Katie Ledecky, risks life and limb as she trains in an ocean infested with saltwater crocodiles.
Many beaches in East Timor are unswimmable and communities live in fear of crocodile attacks -- but it does not stop Belo.
"There's crocodiles in the sea and they can be really dangerous," shrugged freestyler Belo, whose other Asian Games goal is to take a selfie with her crush, Singapore hunk Joseph Schooling.
"I can't go out too deep because you can't see. My parents worry that I might get eaten but I just pray to God to protect me from the crocs."
For Nepal's swimmers, it's not so much sea monsters they fear but the prospect of turning into couch potatoes -- for seven months of the year it is too cold to use the country's only 50m pool.
"We can only train for five months and you can also have political strikes too so you lose more days," said Sirish Gurung, who will swim the 50 and 100m freestyle.
"In the winter there's nothing to do, I just eat burgers and fries. It's a miracle that we're here!"

More News For this Category

Olympic chief Bach consults with IOC members over virus fallout

Agency :Olympic chief Thomas Bach on Wednesday held a series of talks with International Olympic Committee (IOC) members on the potential consequences of the coronavirus pandemic that has seen

China`s Wang Qiang enjoying time without professional tennis

China`s Wang Qiang enjoying time without professional tennis

Agency :Chinese tennis player Wang Qiang, world No.29 in women's singles, told media on Thursday that she is enjoying the days without professional tennis."To be honest, I feel quite

Drive to succeed: The endless golf dominance of South Korea's women

Drive to succeed: The endless golf dominance of South Korea's women

AFP :When South Korea's domestic women's golf tour held its premier event last week-without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic-no fewer than three of the world's top 10 players

Barca midfielder De Jong 'not ready to play yet'

Barca midfielder De Jong 'not ready to play yet'

Agency :Dutch international Frenkie de Jong said Thursday he was glad to resume training with Barcelona but is "not ready to play a game yet" after a two-month stoppage

Sri Lanka scraps $40mn cricket stadium on advice of top players

Sri Lanka scraps $40mn cricket stadium on advice of top players

AFP :Sri Lanka's prime minister Thursday scrapped plans for a $40 million cricket stadium after local legends of the game warned it would end up a white elephant.Former captains

Olympics official see 'real problems' in holding Games in 2021

Olympics official see 'real problems' in holding Games in 2021

AFP, Sydney  :A senior Olympics official has warned that holding the postponed Tokyo Games next year faces "real problems", with even a vaccine unlikely to stave off the threat

Surgical material removed from knee of Atletico's Vrsaljko

World Cup finalist and Atletico Madrid defender Sime Vrsaljko went under the knife to remove surgical material left there in a previous operation, the Spanish club said Thursday.The 28-year-old

German women's league to resume May 29

The German women's championship will resume behind closed doors on May 29, the country's football federation (DFB) announced Wednesday, after a suspension of almost three months due to the

Belgium coach Martinez extends contract until 2022

Roberto Martinez has extended his contract as Belgium coach until 2022 to take him up to the World Cup in Qatar, the Belgian football federation announced Wednesday. The 46-year-old former

Williams sisters stretch it out with yoga treat for fans

Williams sisters stretch it out with yoga treat for fans

Serena Williams is looking forward to getting back to competing when the coronavirus pandemic permits it, in part because she's "feeling better than ever".Her older sister, Venus, is looking forward