Webbing a champion's tale

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Webbing a champion's tale

Despite fighting a fatal disease, para swimmer Anamika's focus is only on Asiad medal

Rejection and distress are two words synonymous to the life of Dola Gorai, mother of 14-year-old para swimmer Anamika Gorai.

Dola recalls the day back in 2013, when she visited a hospital in Bengaluru for her daughter, who's suffering from Upper Motor Neuron Syndrome (UMNS) a disease that has left her disabled by arms and legs since birth.

A disease so fatal that it restricts Anamika's life to the age of 22-24 if left untreated, Dola's visit to that hospital in South India was a trip to nightmare.

"The doctors at first shooed us away. Later, they told us there was no treatment to Anamika's condition," she tells Mail Today.

In fact, the rather uncanny response to Dola's plea is a usual scenario. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, name any other metropolitan city in the country, Dola will tell you she has faced rejection there.

Working at a cake shop in Durgapur doesn't give her wings to dream of taking her daughter to Germany for treatment. In spite of being supported by husband Joy Gorai a local guitarist making ends meet is a routine task, let alone fancy a trip to Europe.

"We are a middle-class family and thinking about going abroad for treatment is just a dream which we know is not possible right now. I know how we have survived so far and what struggles we faced in life. While we hope things get better in future, I think all we do is keep our faith in God," she explains.

It was right at that moment when a number of rejections from doctors across the country led to the Gorai family discovering the world of sport.
As destiny may have it, what started as a physiotherapy routine to help making things better for the time being, unearthed Anamika's natural talent in swimming. It was not long before the 14-year-old made her mark on the global stage.

"A friend suggested us swimming and we started it when she was just six. I learnt swimming at first and started training her before we met Prasanta Karmakar who shaped her career there on. Nothing makes me happy than seeing my daughter smile again. It's hard to live with the fact that Anamika is suffering from such a rare case condition. I feel gutted when I talk about it and we have full faith that swimming is the solution to all our problems," says Dola, who will accompany Anamika at the 2018 Para Asian Games in Indonesia this month.

Swimming came naturally to Anamika and she lived up to the flair right from the start. Soon after winning the state championship, the 14-year-old became the national champion in 2014 and repeated the feat in 2017 winning three gold medals on a trot.

For the Para Asiad, Anamika qualified in some style. She won six medals at the IDM Swimming Championships in Berlin in July, including a gold medal in 150m Individual Medley (Group B). She participates in the S4 category and is also the Asian No. 1 in 50m freestyle.

The cherry on top is that Anamika has also qualified for the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in the 50m Backstroke event.

All these achievements are just memoirs compared to the real competition Anamika is fighting for her life. Being face-to-face with reality, mother Dola's only dream is to see her daughter win a gold medal on the big stage. She wants the world to remember Anamika as a true fighter. This, if the world could see the talented 14-year-old para swimmer no longer.

"I don't have words to describe how it feels. Before, god forbid, anything happens to my child, I want her to win a gold for the country and make us proud. I want her to make the whole country proud and people should remember who she was!" says Dola.

For the soft-spoken Anamika, the focus is just on the Asian Games not to forget an eye on the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

"I have a bit pressure to deliver as I have had a good season. I just want to win a gold medal if possible and hope to give my best. I just want to think about the Asian Games now, nothing else matters," Anamika sums up.