Guwahati: On June 20, 2022, Assam swimming team coach Babul Gurung and his student Kuldeep Saikia calmly stepped into the pool at Guwahati’s Dr. Zakir Hussain Aquatic Complex, Sarusajai Sports Complex. As the clock struck 10, the coach-student duo started performing yoga asanas. The duo continued performing several asanas, one after the other, till 4 pm the next day, Jun 21, 2022, which is celebrated across the world as International Day of Yoga.
Together, they clocked a record 30 hours of non-stop yoga in water and teams of observers from Assam Book of Records, Asia Book of Records, Limca Book of Records and Universal Book of Records were present to record their feat.
Forty-two-year-old Gurung is the first National Open Water Sea Swimming gold medalist from Assam and 5-times national gold medalist in swimming competition (1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995). His student Kuldeep Saikia, with whom the water yoga was performed, is all of 12.
Speaking exclusively to EastMojo, the swimming coach at Sarusajai Sports Complex in Guwahati said, “Yoga is a powerful meditation. Many sportspersons practice yoga as a part of their meditation, to focus on the game and derive energy. An aquatic sportsperson, too, practices Yoga, and being a swimmer, we also practice yoga in pools. That’s how the idea of ‘Water Yoga’ came to my mind without any backend research.”
“Since 8 years now, Yoga has become a global phenomenon and it is India’s contribution to global health and fitness, and not just for athletes and sportspersons.”
Sharing that their feat has been sent to the Guinness World Records after the Asia Book of Records, Limca Book of Records and Universal Book of Records confirmed and booked the records, Gurung said, “We planned it on ‘International Day of Yoga’ after being inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And we started our preparation in October 2021.”
He said Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma had extended them administrative support and directed the Directorate of Youth Affairs and Sports to support their national and international feats as and when they attempted.
“Former CM and then Union Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, too, supported us and they inspired us to achieve higher goals and place our country on the world map,” he added.
Recalling their journey to the record 30-hour water yoga, Gurung said from January 1, 2022, they practiced daily for hours and the department made sure that the venue was available to them whenever they required.
“In the beginning, it was a few minutes, then we increased it to half-an–hour. After dedicated practice, we could achieve a range of 4-6 hours in two weeks, which then became 15 hours in a month’s time. In the 3rd month, we achieved 30 hours for the first time which we repeated three times till May-end. In June, we repeated the 30-hour performance just once and then started a reverse decrease of 2 hours every day,” said Gurung, who holds the record of swimming across the Brahmaputra at the age of 11 in 1991.
The son-of-the-soil has many feathers in his cap. Under his training at Sarusajai Sports Complex, Assam has produced many swimmers who have gone on to win several medals at national level.
In the year 2017, Jahnabi Kashyap created three All India National Records and received the Best Swimmer Award in National Aquatic Championship India. In 2019, Sri-Manash Pratim Baishya got the Best Swimmer award in the junior category at the National Swimming Championship.
His student Kasturi Gogoi won the silver medal in National Sea Swimming Competition, 2022, held at Porbandar, Gujarat.
This wasn’t it. On March 30, 2022, Gurung and his 9-year-old student Kasturi created a world record by swimming 110 kilometres from Colombo in Sri Lanka to Chennai (UIndia) in just 19 hours. They started on March 29 from Colombo’s Munar Island and on March 30, the student-teacher duo from Assam reached the Indian shores near Archul Mulai in Tamil Nadu’s capital city Chennai.
Besides this, Gurung holds the record of being the youngest swimmer in Assam Book & Bengal Book of Record having swum across the Brahmaputra in 1991.
When asked how he and his student Kuldeep maintained their persistence and how they prepared for the 30-hr feat, Gurung said, “After each 30 hour training, we underwent a full medical checkup to ascertain our health condition. Not even on a single occasion was it worrying for us since we practiced scientifically. We also maintained a balanced diet and practiced in optimum to extreme water temperature. It was six months of motivation, dedication, will power and scientific skill and stamina to keep floating on water without swimming or movement for more than a day and night.”
Gurung added that water temperature was a factor since it is the rainy season. “But we had practiced in January, so that was not a big challenge. Luckily, we got bright sun on 20th and 21st of June, so the water temperature was optimum,” he added.
Growing up on the banks of the Brahmaputra, Gurung said swimming came naturally to him. And being a Gorkha, his family wanted him to either join the Indian Army or CAPF. So, fitness was always a top priority.
On the prospect of Assam producing national and international-level swimmers, the Head Coach of the Assam State Team said the government of Assam has improved sports infrastructure across the state and they have been organizing major sporting events in Guwahati.
“We have a good pool of swimmers here and are being given class training. Assam has the potential of podium finish in Olympics for India in next 3 editions of the games. We get continuous support from our association and federation and the Government of Assam ensures sportspersons are given the best of facilities. If this continues, Assam surely will produce world class swimmers and aquatic sportspersons,” he added.
Gurung said the state has produced national gold medalist swimmers like Shivangi Sharma, Manash Pratim Sharma, Jhanabi Kashyap. “And Assam will have more Jhanabis, Manash, Shivangis, Kasturis and Kuldeeps and I look forward to leading from the front,” he added.
Gurung also credits his career success to his coaches, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Assam Swimming Association. He has also represented the Indian SAARC team as a coach in Kathmandu, Nepal 2014.
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