He is just 24 and has made it to the top 30 of the Forbes U30 list in the Entertainment and Sports section of 2019; he is an award-winning professional para swimmer who has created an Asian record in the men’s 200m backstroke; he has won numerous gold medals, with particular success at the 2017 IWAS Junior World Games in Prague and the World Junior Games in 2015; he is also a notable alumnus of Jain (Deemed-to-be University). He is NIRANJAN MUKUNDAN – who recently qualified for the World Para Swimming Championships.
His typical day starts at 4:30 am followed by a session of diving into the chilling waters of the swimming pool, in spite of being born with the medical condition spina bifida (congenital malformation that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly, affecting physical and intellectual development). After rigorous training he is on his way to attend competitions and is ready to take on the world with swimming championships. If this does not motivate someone, I am not sure what else could, because someone with a serious medical condition of having been paralyzed below the hips is exhibiting to the world that nothing can stop his dreams. Having been an Asian gold medalist and a junior world champion, Niranjan is also nicknamed the Medal Machine of India, owing to winning 42+ International medals and 80+ medals at the state and national levels.
When queried about his title of medal machine, he laughs warmly at the fact and states, “I wasn’t even sure of participating in such competitive sports initially, but now having taken it as a challenge I am happy to be winning medals for my country and these definitely keep me motivated enough to challenge myself further and achieve at the highest level possible.”
In his conversation he shares that a self- probing session during his school days led him to analyse about his skills. While the doctors suggested horse riding or swimming as a therapy to strengthen his legs, he chose swimming because horse riding was petrifying for a school kid. What started off as therapy, became a game changer for Niranjan and gave a lease of new life. Or let us say that a champion was born through therapy. “Water which became a mystic constituent in my life has been my true blue companion since I was 8 years old. When my parents found that I could no longer fit in the tub, they enrolled me in a swimming club and the journey towards my achievement began from there,” reminisces the para-swimmer.
Niranjan also recollects how he had been disappointed after his failure in his first stint at swimming at the National level where he represented Karnataka. It was his coach John Christopher who encouraged him further and became the guiding light of his well- established achievement today. Patience and determination as told by his coach got him to achieve at higher levels and be where he is today.
The Medal Machine of India states that he was born with a condition that devastated people around him and had to undergo 17 major surgeries since birth to be able to stand on his own legs and this experience made him believe that “Life is definitely beyond mere existence.” Niranjan further avers that he acquires a lot of gratification through the challenges he faces in life and that the obstacles he faced have made him a stronger person today.
The para swimmer who has been a noted alumnus of JAIN is proud to be a Jainite as he would like to be known. “Having heard about Jain Group of Institutions, I was excited when I enrolled for a B.Com degree and this definitely proved to be a right choice for me. The kind of support I received from the faculty and the Sports Department only motivated me to achieve higher.
Niranjan who carries a radiant aura that can rub off you stands as an evidence to the power of resilience and perseverance.
Undeterred by the continual obstructions that came his way as an aftermath of his medical condition, Niranjan says “I continued to strive hard, irrespective of my health disorder and the complexities that came my way. I could have easily given up owing to my health condition, but the zeal towards accomplishing something never permitted me to settle in peace. So, I strongly believe that physical disability can never be a hindrance on your voyage to success.”