Legendary Swimming Coach Khorshed Bhathena Dies At 84
Paying tribute to a lady whose love for water literally challenged every sign of aging —Khorshed Bhathena. The 84-year-old swimming coach took her last breath this morning.
Bhathena started swimming early in the 1950s when Bombay (now Mumbai) lacked proper swimming pools. Without a proper teacher, she decided to teach herself swimming and started her career competitively. Her most distinctive accolade was a 15-hour swim from Dharamtar to the Gateway of India. After many years of dominating the competition circuit, a muscle tear in her left arm left her unable to swim competitively any further.
“I then decided to share my passion with others, by teaching them how to swim,” she had told Bangalore Mirror. “At first, I began teaching my friends and their children, and their enthusiasm encouraged me to take up coaching on a professional level. Today, I have been coaching professionally for 51 years and have trained three generations of swimmers.”
Bhathena had a list of elite students who has trained under her for several years, including national level champions and even a world-renowned Olympian, Michael Klim. “I taught Michael how to swim when he was barely three years old, and studied at Green Lawns High School at Malabar Hill. He was one of my brightest students.” said Bhathena.
“My father Wojtek was a Polish diplomat, who was posted in Bombay from 1978-1982. We used to stay in Malabar Hill and go to learn swimming under Khorshed every day at the Breach Candy club.” – Michael Klim
“My father Wojtek was a Polish diplomat, who was posted in Bombay from 1978-1982. We used to stay in Malabar Hill and go to learn swimming under Khorshed every day at the Breach Candy club. I have a deep connection with this city as I’ve taken my baby steps in the pool here. The seeds of my success were sown here in Bombay. I was a six-year-old when I left the city, so I don’t remember much. But my parents have told me stories about my childhood. It’s nostalgic, as I plan to visit the club and the apartment we stayed here tomorrow,” said Michael Klim the former Australian Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer, to Mid-day.
For Bhathena, however, it was more of a fan moment. “In my five-decade long coaching career, Michael has been my brightest student. Back then, though he was barely three years old, he stood out and would beat boys twice his age. I always knew he was talented and I take pride in his achievements. It was very touching when he gifted me an autographed picture of himself holding up all his Olympic medals with the message: ‘What I am today is because of you’. That’s my most prized possession.” for her that was immensely gratifying.
“I’ve kept three generations of South Bombay from going under,”
Bhathena taught children to 75 year-olds. At 82, she worked as a private swimming instructor at plush South Bombay high rise buildings’ pools including Godrej Planet, Grand Paradi, The Imperial, Darshan Apartments and also teaches at Breach Candy Club. “I’ve kept three generations of South Bombay from going under,” she had told Brown Paper Bag.
The Dadar-based, 84-year-old Bhathena continued her passion till she died. “For me, swimming is more than sporting activity — it is a life skill and also an experience that my students can share with their families.” To this day, Bhathena’s coaching roster is packed with activities. “I work from early in the morning to late in the evening. I even work on Sundays. When you love what you do, I don’t think there really is any other way,” she had said.
Feature Picture Credit: Mid-Day