National record holder, Sirish Gurung is a 20 years old swimmer who represented Nepal in the Rio Olympics 2016 and set the new national record in the 100m freestyle. He was the first ever Nepali male swimmer to be the finalist in South Asian Games 2016. Recently, he won the title of 8th Open Water Swimming Championship for the 3rd time.
He is the founder of Sirish Foundation which provides financial and strategic support to the underprivileged yet talented athletes of Nepal. Apart from sports, he can play 5 eastern and 6 western musical instruments. He has even released his rap song in 2016 that was an immediate hit among youths.
Starting his journey
Sirish has always been a hyperactive free-spirit since his childhood that let him run around most of the time. Surprisingly, he learned driving bike, bus, truck and even crane at the age of 5! Such vibrant energy drew his parents attention and hence, they made him engaged in every extracurricular activity possible. But whether it’s football or piano classes, this mischievous kid always managed to escape juggling the rules and restrictions. Worn out parents finally got an idea to admit Sirish for swimming classes realizing that there is no escape out for him from the pool in a swimsuit.
As destined, his career as a swimmer kick-started when he won the trophy of the Youngest Swimmer at an age of 5. This recognition gave new confidence to Sirish. However, his tenacity for swimming grew stronger in 2008, when his two seniors got selected for the Beijing Olympics. He says, “This incident gave me an insight that swimming is not only a game but also a matter of pride. I instantly made up my mind to represent Nepal in the Olympics near future. This is how I started taking my training seriously since then.” Nothing to surprise, his persistence hard work finally paid off when he represented Nepal in the Rio Olympics 2016 after 8 years.
Tackling the odds
Humbly appreciating the family support, Sirish mentions, “In Nepal, we still have a conventional thinking that sports overshadow the academic because of which many students are not allowed to take sports and studies hand in hand. I had a different scenario. I am really grateful to my parents who understood my passion and tried their best to support me financially and emotionally. This motivated me to be more responsible for my studies because I don’t want my parent’s effort to go in vain. Ya, it was a bit challenging to give up the social life and different parties, outings as a teenager but I had a clear focus to manage my studies and swimming career. With sincerity and proper time management, I was able to fit in both schools and practices.”
Addressing the lack of government’s contribution to the upliftment of sports’ condition in Nepal, Sirish says, “As an athlete, that also in a country like Nepal, it’s really hard to sustain our career. I was lucky to have a strong family support but there are many other underprivileged swimmers who need to struggle for the whole shebang. We lack proper infrastructure and stable support from the government that is seldom undermined. Talking about swimming itself, swimming pools are closed down during winter that hinders the practice session. Resourceful swimmers fly over to other countries to continue their journey but others have no choice. This gap let them gain weights and hence, every effort prior the gap seems worthless. Contrary to this, the country expects us to win the international tournaments where other participants have more valued diets and intensive training than us,”
Currently, Sirish is endeavouring for his higher studies in the States as he aims to study sports medicine. He shares,” There are very less specialized doctors for athletes in Nepal that often gives a negative mark in the field of sports. It’s certain that I am never going to give up swimming as far as my body supports me. Meantime, I also want to support other athletes by being a doctor. Since the study isn’t accessible in Nepal, I am trying abroad and will surely return my homeland with added values inside me.“ Similarly, he had established Sirish Foundation from his personal savings and winning prizes because of which, the financial status of the institute is quite compact. He looks forward to expanding the noble organization in the coming days.
His message to the youths
The young gentleman believes in hard work and states, “We should always be grateful and respect the things that we have. Never expect success overnight. It requires lots of practices and sacrifices. The moment when you are continuously strolling your news feed, there is another person somewhere else working on his dreams. So, always stay motivated and work to groom yourself!”
By: Ruby Shah