Satendra Singh Lohiya - the Michael Phelps fan looking to inspire para-athletes from India

Lohiya has 70 per cent disability but that did not stop him from achieving excellence

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

Even though life had its own way to throw challenges at para-swimmer Satendra Singh Lohiya, he stood tall, did not consider himself weak, and overcame all the odds.

Lohiya faced challenges in his life as a toddler. But that never bogged him down. A few months after his birth, he was diagnosed with a reaction to diarrhoea, and the problem returned to haunt him in his teens.

The 33-year-old para-swimmer from Bhind, Madhya Pradesh was paralysed during his childhood days. He has 70 per cent disability but that did not stop him from achieving excellence.

Lohiya won a gold medal for India at the 2017 State Open Championship in Sydney, Australia. In 2019, he created history by swimming the 42km Catalina Channel in California (in pitch dark) with the Indian para-swimming relay team in an Asian record time of 11.34 hours.

Lohiya is a huge fan of champion swimmer Michael Phelps who is the most decorated Olympian ever with 28 medals (23 of those were gold). Lohiya wants to educate and inspire aspiring para-athletes in India by utilising platforms like YouTube and more.

“I plan to open up a sports academy in future. I have plans to start a YouTube channel and encourage other para-athletes through motivational speeches and proper guidance on achieving their goal. In such a day and age, I plan to bring the benefits of advanced technology to their doorstep to help them pursue their dreams,” Lohiya told Mid-Day.

Satendra Singh Lohiya in action

Swimming lifted his spirit. And even though he did not receive any professional training at a young age, near his village, he decided to continue to swim for fun and keep his body fit.

"Well, I was born in a small village in Gata of the Bhind district in Madhya Pradesh. About 2-3 months after birth, my body underwent a reaction due to diarrhoea, however, there was no serious problem that cropped up at the time. Years later, when I was in my teens, this sickness came back to haunt me," he said.

"It was during my school days that I began to learn swimming in a river that was located near my village. However, I would not call it professional swimming. I didn't even know that such a thing as para-swimming ever existed. I swam clearly for the pure fun and excitement as well as to keep my body fit," he added.

It was professor VK Dabas, who tested him and helped him shape up as a para-swimmer during his formative years.

"When I met VK Dabas Sir, he wanted to test my swimming skills and seemed quite impressed with it. I began training with him for a while, but in 2007, after my family was hit by yet another financial crisis, I avoided attending school.

"A year later in 2008, I participated in the para-swimming competition in Gwalior and in 2009, I was taken to Kolkata for the nationals where I won a bronze medal. Gradually, I began motivating myself to think positively and focus on the solution instead of the problem."

Today, he has successfully crossed the Catalina Channel in California (2019) and the English Channel (in 2018). He has also accumulated four golds, two silver, and one bronze from the National Paralympic Swimming Championship.

His excellence was also recognised by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi who termed him ‘remarkable’.

Satendra Lohiya was honoured with the 'Best sportsperson with disability' award during the 70th Republic Day by Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu in 2019.

Lohiya’s story is a huge inspiration to para-athletes around the country and a strong message that hard work and self belief will help overcome any challenge.