Sajan Prakash lives in Neyveli near Puducherry with his mother. His maternal grandfather, uncle and three other family members, who live near the Cheruthony dam in Idukki, have been missing since Thursday.
On Sunday, Sajan Prakash became the first Indian swimmer in 32 years to qualify for the 200m butterfly final of the Asian Games. But as the 24-year-old from Idukki took the plunge at Jakarta’s GBK Aquatic Centre, his thoughts would have wandered to his home that has been washed away by floodwaters in Kerala, and the five members of his family who have been missing for the last three days.
Prakash couldn’t win a medal despite entering the final as the third-fastest qualifier. He is likely to have been distracted. But in finishing fifth in the eight-man final, he still set a national record, clocking 1 minute 57.75 seconds. The last time an Indian reached the final of the 200m butterfly at the Asian Games was Khazan Singh in 1986 who won silver at Seoul.
“He was calling me all day. He is very upset, and wasn’t able to focus on the race. If not for this, he would have won a medal,” Prakash’s mother Shantymol told The Indian Express Sunday evening.
Prakash, who represented India at the 2016 Rio Olympics, lives in Neyveli near Puducherry with his mother. His maternal grandfather, uncle and three other family members, who live near the Cheruthony dam in Idukki, have been missing since Thursday. Shantymol had not told him this, fearing it would impact his performance.
“But someone at the Games Village told him. So he called me late Saturday night, demanding to know what had happened,“We have lost everything; our house, land… we aren’t able to trace our family.”
Sajan Prakash couldn’t win a medal despite entering the final as the third-fastest qualifier.
Prakash will have another shot at a medal on Monday in the 4x200m freestyle relay, and again on Wednesday in the 100 m butterfly. Shantymol his mother hopes her son will be able to overcome the distraction. “I am trying to convince him to focus on his events. He has worked very hard for this, he shouldn’t be worrying about things that are not in our control,” she said.