Google paid tributes to iconic long distance swimmer and Olympian Arati Saha on her 80th birth anniversary with a doodle. Saha was the first woman to be awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour in India, in 1960. Thursday’s illustration was drawn by Lavanya Naidu, an artist from Kolkata.
Born on September 24, 1940 in Calcutta, Saha learnt to swim on the banks of the Hooghly river at the age of four. She was spotted by Sachin Nag, and later she was inspired by the ace Indian swimmer Mihir Sen to try to cross the English Channel.
Back in her early days, Saha used to take part in long distance swimming competition in the Ganges. Saha, who got the first inspiration to cross the English Channel Channel from Brojen Das, who became the first among the men and earned the distinction of being the first person from the Indian subcontinent to cross the English Channel at the 1958 Butlin International Cross Channel Swimming Race.
At the 1952 Summer Olympics, Saha represented India along with compatriot Dolly Nazir. She was one of the four women participants and the youngest member of the Indian contingent. She took part in 200 metres breast stroke event. At the heats she clocked 3 minutes 40.8 seconds. After returning from the Olympics, she lost in 100 metres freestyle to her sister Bharati Saha. After the loss, she concentrated only on breast stroke.
At one point, Saha swam for eight straight hours at the pond in Deshbandhu Park, and then went on to double her time. After six years of training, Saha traveled to England on 24 July 1959.
On August 4, 1994, she got admitted to a private nursing home in Kolkata with jaundice and encephalitis. After battling for 19 days, she died on August 23, 1994.