Swimming - Vedaant Madhavan
Vedaant Madhavan, based in Dubai, shows off his gold in 800 metres freestyle in Danish Open last week. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Kolkata: Vedaant Madhavan, the 16-year-old son of Indian screen idol R. Madhavan, had been trending in the social media since last week. The promising swimmer scooped up two medals in the Danish Open – a 800m freestyle gold and 1500m silver – a feat which also created ripples in the Bollywood fraternity.

For Vedaant, who had been based in Dubai with her mother for training since 2021 – along with a number of other members of the Indian national squad – the medals were just ‘’small milestones’’ on way to his ultimate goal of making it to the Summer Olympics. Pradeep Kumar, the Dronacharya awardee head coach of Indian team, nods in agreement as he looks at the bigger picture for the contingent.

‘’It was quite satisfying but I see them as small milestones to my ultimate goal of making it to the Olympics. They make me feel that I am proceeding towards the big goal slowly but steadily,’’ said Vedaant.

Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive virtual interview, Vedaant revealed that he managed to shave off valuable seconds off of his best timings in both the finals. ‘’When I saw the heats list, I found out that I was ranked quite low – in 10th and sixth positions. However, I am happy with my effort as I dropped 17 seconds in my 1500m and about 11 seconds in 800m (8:17.28 secs),’’ he said.

Trying to put the performance of the entire Indian squad in Denmark, coach Kumar said: ‘’It was overall a decent performance from a predominantly young team. To be honest, I didn’t expect a gold or silver from Vedaant but wanted to see an improvement in his timings. He is currently the fastest junior swimmer among the Indians but that doesn’t mean he can sit back and relax as there are others trying to play catch-up.’’

Tanish George Matthew, another member of the contingent, finished fourth in Denmark while Sajan Prakash, the butterfly specialist who grabbed headlines when he qualified for Tokyo 2020 – also landed a gold in 200m butterfly on the opening day and finished fifth in the ‘A’ final of men’s 100m butterfly.

He (Vedaant) looks focused and there is no attitude problem on his part so far – he is treated just like others in the group. It’s a fact that because of his famous parentage, any achievement on his part gets amplified on social media, but it seems he has his feet on the ground...

- Pradeep Kumar, Dronacharya awardee coach

The Indian swimming contingent returned to their base in Dubai on Thursday, and neither Vedaant or Pradeep Kumar have had the time to finalise his plans for the upcoming months. The sporting calendar this year has a series of marquee swimming and multi-discipline events like the Commonwealth Games, Junior World Championships, Worlds and Asian Games – but Kumar has a realistic target in mind for the star son.

Asked how the year could possibly pan out for Vedaant, the coach opened up: ‘’The World Juniors are coming up in Peru and then of course there is Asian Games in China. We are looking at the sub-junior nationals in Odisha in July for him to have a go for both of them – though we are yet to get the qualifying marks for either.’’

The Aqua National Sports Academy (ANSA) in Dubai, which had been acting as the hub for the Indian swimmers ever since the Covid-19 pandemic hit home, will again be their address in the coming months.

Asked whether the success in Denmark has helped him make up his mind on zeroing in on 800m and 1500m freestyle as his niche events in future, Vedaant felt it was too early to comment on it. ‘’It’s still too early to say but yes, 800m and 1500m are two of my favourite distances. Right now, I do all distances and keep on doing 100m, 200m and 400m as well,’’ he said.

How does coach Kumar assess Vedaant’s potential as a swimmer? ‘’He looks focused and there is no attitude problem on his part so far – he is treated just like others in the group. It’s a fact that because of his famous parentage, any achievement on his part gets amplified on social media, but it seems he has his feet on the ground,’’ the veteran coach added.