Middle-age comes with its own set of challenges and priorities. While weakening health starts to show signs for most, focus often goes on chalking out retirement, investment plans. But 47-year-old Shyamala Goli from Telangana is here to debunk all such notions about middle age as she swam across the 30km stretch of Palk Strait (Ram Setu) within the clocked time of 13 Hours and 47 minutes. With this, Shyamala has become the second Indian woman to swim across the Palk Strait, breaking Bula Choudhury’s record.
In a conversation with News18, Shyamala said that she had planned to swim the stretch last year, but had to shelf her plan due to coronavirus spread and the subsequent lockdown which led to her permissions getting cancelled just a day before her expedition. This year she again toiled to get permissions for which her coach and senior IPS officer Rajiv Trivedi helped. Once all her permissions were sanctioned, she decided to name her expedition as ‘INDIA-SRI LANKA Friendship Swimming’. She started her 30Km expedition from Thalaimannar, Sri Lanka to Dhanushkodi, India.
But Shyamala’s interest in swimming wasn’t something that came naturally to her. In fact, she says, she was aqua-phobic until 2016. A creative director by profession, Shyamala also owned an animation business some time ago which she had to shut due to losses. The losses led to stress and depression and to cope with the situation, Shyamala decided to learn to swim. Her journey began from a summer camp pool. Shyamala believes that physical activities are great to relieve stress. “I still remember how jittery I was when I began swimming for the first time. But now I am madly in love with water,” Shyamala says.
It was an article on English Channel that triggered the spark to do something off beat and she shared her urge to swim with her friends. But she only received criticism when people around her who said that she shouldn’t think about international waters at this age and should stay limited to state-level competitions only. These words hurt her and she took it as a challenge and decided to conquer Palk Strait.
It was courage and determination coupled with the efforts of her trainer Rajiv Trivedi that made her capable enough to achieve the feat. Trivedi too himself swum across the Palk Strait, English Channel and Gibraltar. He coached Shyamala for open waters. She started her training from small pools around Telangana, where her previous coach Ayush Yadav, the head coach at sports authority of Telangana, trained her for pool events after which she Represented India at FINA, World Master Championship held in South Korea.
Shyamala had only four years of experience in swimming along with a basic homemade diet, and very basic coaching unlike many swimming champions. She worked on her dream with all of her power and determination, not paying heed to what people around her had to day. Shyamala believes, “Age is just a number that increases every year like date changes on a calendar. We need a goal, dedication and focus to prosper”. She also expressed that, “Women have many responsibilities while juggling between family & work but she needs to sacrifice some in order to achieve her goals”.