Delhi-based Richa Mishra made her debut at the swimming nationals way back in 1994 and went on to win a medal in senior nationals in 1998. In 1999, she joined the CRPF. Since then she has been one of the biggest names in Indian swimming circles. Recently, she won a gold in 200 Individual Medley and 400 Individual Medley – broke the national record set by her 11 years back (5:02:86) and became the first woman to break the five-minute barrier (4:59:17). Last month at the Dr BR Ambedkar International Aquatic Complex, she bettered her own nine-year-old meet record and 11-year-old Indian Best Performance record in the event. SheThePeople.TV met Richa to know more about her journey. Some edited snippets from the interview.

“I’d never thought I’ll continue for this long. What keeps me chasing my passion even at this age is I enjoy swimming and my sports life. If following a passion and working hard to achieve your dreams don’t give you the encouragement, then what will?” Richa told SheThePeople.TV.

The 35-year-old and balances a full-time profession and passion simultaneously. Mishra, who works at the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), craves for more. Richa is making a splash by competing with swimmers almost half her age. “My father was a weightlifter, my grandfather used to play Kabbadi, my great-grandfather was into wrestling too. So sport was always in my blood,” said the 10 times National Champion. She also won five golds in senior nationals 2018. “When I am in the water, I feel like a 15-year-old,” said the athlete.

If following a passion and working hard to achieve your dreams don’t give you the encouragement, then what will?

The beginning

“As a child, I would go with my father to the pool near our house. I was five, seeing the water, would make me jump in it. My father was advised by the coach at the pool that I should learn swimming for safety’s sake.  That’s how I started off and never looked back,” Richa explained.

Swimmer Richa Mishra
Richa Mishra as a kid

How she decided to take it up professionally, she said, “I entered in competitive swimming because of my elder sister Charu Mishra. She is currently my coach.  After seeing her winning a medal in a club competition and receiving a cash award, seeing her enjoying her victory inspired me to take up swimming professionally.”

Age no barrier

“I wanted to be an inspiration for the younger, aspiring girls. Why I still swim at this age? Because fame is addictive! Winning medals became a passion, and it kept me going. Being recognized for the hard work I have put through, getting rewarded for the achievements are what make me crave for more.”

Challenges

“The biggest challenge is finding a pool to train in winters. As I’m the only Delhi female swimmer who participated in the Asian Games World Championship and several other international competitions, the struggle to train is hard. I don’t get a lane to train in Talkatora. Getting a free space there is a tough job. Once I was up for a trial before the recent National 2018 but I was forced to leave,” the athlete claims.

Swimmer Richa Mishra
Swimmer Richa Mishra

Talking about family support, Richa says, “Though I was born in a lower middle-class family, my parents have been strongly supportive and having them as my anchor helped me get where I am today. I never faced any problem with the society at large. The trouble came from people who worked in the sports authority of India.”

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She further added, “Starting a career in swimming wasn’t easy. My sister and I faced many financial problems. We couldn’t even afford our sports kits.  Other kids used to bully us, laugh at us because of our poor background. But getting support from the family made things a little uncomplicated. We focused on our training and days changed when I started winning and joined the CRPF.”

“I still am financially challenged. I support my family alone and the salary I get is not enough. Swimming kits and costumes are expensive as well. When I pitch for sponsors, they refuse because of my age even though I am still breaking national records. Being the one and only female swimmer from Delhi who clinched five golds, to maintain my training is hard. Beginners are appreciated more than experienced ones.” stated the Rajiv Gandhi state awardee.

Swimmer Richa Mishra
Swimmer Richa Mishra

Facilities, infrastructure, appreciation are areas for sure where we are lacking. India lacks in terms of valuing all kinds of sports.

Future plans

In the recent future, I’m prepping to go to the USA for a three-month long training.  My next competition will be starting in the coming year, so at the moment training hard is important.

As for long-term plans, I would definitely start training youngsters who could use my experience.

Swimmer Richa Mishra
Swimmer Richa Mishra with family

No gender discrimination in swimming

The ones who have potential and talent are easily supported by the federation. Sponsorship is still a debatable topic but pay disparity is non-existent.

Young girls have a very bright future. Restraints and challenges will be there, but just to keep working hard and following the passion will make things smooth over time.

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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