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Making of a Champion: Liyana Fathima

Editor's Note: In an article that explores the various facades of national swimming champion, Liyana Fathima's life, Nikhil Jose, of Grade 10 GPS-International writes about the nitty gritty of the experience that made her achievements possible.

Liyana Fathima Umer, the Mermaid – the Goldfish – the pride of our school, the seventh-grade swimming sensation who created ripples in national and international waters. A true inspiration to all young aspiring athletes. We have unanimously applauded the broken records and have seen the sense of achievement writ all over Liyana’s face on multiple occasions but the desire to achieve more never dies in her. She seems invincible and unstoppable. But the question remains - what do we actually know about her? How much are we aware of the hardships that she encountered on route to achieving what she has. Have we ever tried to gauge her fears and understand the goals she set for herself? Do we have an insight into her goals and her plans on achieving them?
We had the privilege of speaking with Liyana and got her to answer these ever-rising questions and more. So without further ado, we present to you the life of the girl behind the swimmer.
Her golden journey began when in Grade 1 her father coaxed her into joining swimming lessons. To our great surprise she confesses that she was actually scared of water before she started going for classes. She was apprehensive of spending most of her time immersed in the very thing she was afraid of. Well, it turned out that she had quite the talent for the sport and under the watchful guidance of then-GPS coach, Ms. Bhagyalakshmi, she steadily fostered a passion for swimming. A change in coaches did not deter her pace as she developed a strong bond with Mr. Santosh Kumar, the current swimming coach, and the rest is history.


Her training with Mr. Santosh was, by no means, a walk in the park. Sticking to his strict ideology of “perfecting everything” he trained her with the clear motive of eliminating any and all flaws that Liyana may have had. The laurels she has brought back after sticking to this method bear testimony to this.
If “perfecting everything” is the coach’s motto then the quote “practice makes perfect” goes side by side with it. Putting Liyana through a gruelling one and a half hour session in the morning before school and more in the evening Liyana’s practice time comes close to seven hours. Yes — let that sink in for a bit.

So far, all we have heard about is the extra-curricular part of her life. Let’s not forget, that she too is a school-going student like all of us. At the risk of sounding like countless teachers and parents — education, whether we like it or not, is an integral part of our life. So how has Liyana managed to keep a balance between both parts? Her teachers remark that she does not allow her achievements interfere with her academics. In Grade 5, she was conferred the Dr. Sathyan Memorial Award by Global Public School for outstanding achievement in junior school. A member of Water House, she has also championed local track and field events bringing back laurels for her House.

Liyana does not settle for anything other than the best. She has broken records, but that wasn’t enough for her as she has now bagged two silver medals at the 44th Glenmark Junior National Aquatic Championships held this year in Pune. Scoring the top prize in her age group in all championships is the current objective of the student as well as the teacher have set. This will add to her victories at the Hamilton Aquatics Competition 2016, where she won the gold in 100 m butterfly, bronze in 50 m butterfly and silver in 100 m freestyle and a silver medal in the 100 meter butterfly stroke. She achieved similar success in the CBSE National Level Swimming Championship held at Bhopal in November 2016 where she secured a gold medal each in 50 Meter Butterfly stroke, bringing back Kerala’s first medal in the National Sub Junior Group 3 event in 20 years.

It is not uncommon for athletes to want their families and trainers to watch them compete in tournaments with elite opponents and beat them. The same goes for Liyana as having Mr. Santosh and her family present during her national finals, in her words, would prove to be a great source of encouragement for her. And the person she’d want to beat: Reeta Orison, GPS alumnus and swim team senior who was Kerala's swimming champion in the junior category for quite a long time. After all, “perfecting everything” doesn’t come by just practice.
This is where the journey ends and a new chapter in Liyana’s life begins. She will go down in history as one of the finest swimmers from Kerala who took the nationals by storm. 

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