India’s Dubai teen swimmer Tanish George Mathew
India’s Dubai teen swimmer Tanish George Mathew with his silver medal at the World Schools Championship in Rio 2019. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Teenager Tanish George Mathew is hoping to inspire the next generation of sports stars after the Dubai-based swimming sensation was chosen for the Indian Government’s Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS) last week.

A 11th Grade commerce student at The Indian High School, Tanish is just one of two athletes, both from the Dubai-based school — badminton player Tanisha Crasto is the other — to make it into the latest TOPS list consisting of more than 250 sportspersons.


Growing up in Bengaluru in the Indian State of Karnataka, Tanish was introduced to athletics and swimming as a five-year-old by sports-loving parents George and Viji Susan along with elder sister Diya Mary, presently a Sports Management student at the Canadian University Dubai.

In 2014, the Mathew family shifted to Dubai with George getting a posting with American multinational information technology giant Hewlett — Packard. Over a period of time, Tanish began showing promise in the water while convincing him that his calling was in the world of swimming.

Attending coaching under national Indian swimming coach and Dronacharya award winner Pradeep Kumar at the Aqua Nation Sports Academy in Al Jaddaf area of Dubai, Tanish displayed steady improvement in his times. And by 2017, the youngster won his first national-level medal.

Since then, 16-year-old Tanish has been ahead of the game dreaming big on his swimming aspirations and hopes while targeting an Olympic medal.

Last year, Tanish’s moment of glory came when he claimed a silver medal in 100m butterfly at the World Schools Championship held in Rio de Janeiro from May 18-23. Red hot on form, the young swimmer showed improvement to clock a personal best of 2:02.7 in his pet 200m butterfly at the Seventh FINA World Junior Swimming Championships held at the Danube Arena in Budapest, Hungary from August 20-25.

“I came first in my heats and to see the Indian flag flying is a moment I will cherish for a long time. It is that image that keeps me going,” Tanish told Gulf News in a chat.

“The impression always is that we cannot have top-level sportspersons coming out from this part of the world. I don’t think that’s true, and I am here to prove that anything is possible, provided one is ready to relentlessly work hard.”

Tanish George Mathew with Pradeep Kumar, head coach and CEO of Aqua Nation Sports Academy, Dubai.
Tanish George Mathew with Pradeep Kumar, head coach and CEO of Aqua Nation Sports Academy, Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

The most immediate aim now is to ensure qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8. The ‘B’ qualifying standard for 200m butterfly is 1:59.97 and that is what Tanish will be eyeing heading into qualifying competitions until June 2021.

“I believe this qualifying time for Tokyo is achievable. I have another 10 months before me, provided FINA can come up with a proper competition calendar heading into the Olympics. The feeling is always there that nothing is impossible, but then this feeling has to be accompanied with a full commitment towards the ultimate goal,” Tanish related.

Immediately after lockdown conditions were eased in Dubai, Tanish has been with his coach Pradeep Kumar and the rest of the trainees including some top-class swimmers such as Indian Akash Deep Singh and Sri Lankan Asanka Silva.

A typical day for Tanish begins with an opening session in the pool from 4.45am to 6.45am followed by core exercises from 6pm and the final water session from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. “At the moment, I am doing 10 sessions in a week. But as time goes by we will definitely improve on the intensity of these training sessions so that I am in peak form approaching the qualifying events,” Tanish said.

Last week, Tanish became one of the 14 swimmers from a list of 250-odd young sportspersons included in the TOPS programme for future Olympic glory. “This inclusion comes at the right time for me. I have the next few months where I will continue working even harder with Tokyo 2020 on my mind. And after that I have the 2024 Paris Olympic Games,” Tanish said.

“My focus has always been to listen to what my coach says. He knows what’s best for me. I work hard at each session, but I also enjoy what I do because in the end I know that there will be just reward for all the hard work put in over the years.”

Established in September 2014, TOPS has an Elite Athletes’ Identification Committee concentrating on ‘high-priority’ sports such as archery, badminton, boxing, swimming, hockey, shooting and wrestling with an eye on winning international medals for the country.

The TOPS-sponsored athletes gained relative success at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2018 Commonwealth Games with PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik capturing silver and bronze in Badminton and Wrestling, respectively in Brazil, while 47 of the 70 medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games were supported by the scheme.