Om Seth, at 88, finds swimming to be like a mother’s embrace

Photo of Om Seth.

At the recently concluded 19th National Masters Swimming Championship in Mangaluru, 88-year-old Om Seth not only clinched four gold medals but also received recognition for his enduring passion and devotion to swimming. Initially introduced to swimming in an Amritsar canal, despite initial reservations from his father, the sheer joy of being buoyed by the water sparked a lifelong love for the sport.

Although family concerns briefly interrupted his aquatic pursuits, Seth rekindled his passion during his engineering days in Jamshedpur, where he received mentorship from a Parsi girl, boosting his confidence in the water.

Continuing to cultivate his love for swimming in Germany, where heated pools and a vibrant swimming culture enriched his experience, Seth returned to India and incorporated swimming into his regular fitness regimen.

Upon joining a club, he was pleasantly surprised to have his coach recognize his potential, guiding him into the realm of competitive swimming. This pivotal moment marked the commencement of his journey into masters championships, a competition catering to individuals aged 35 and above, with races organized in closer age groups.

Entering his first national masters competition in Rajkot in 2002, Seth clinched a silver medal, triggering a recognition of his abilities. Reflecting on subsequent championships, he highlighted his success in Thiruvananthapuram, where he secured four gold and two bronze medals, acknowledging his significant potential in swimming.

Despite facing a more challenging competition in Bombay, Seth broke the Thiruvananthapuram record, albeit securing only two medals. Realizing the need for a change in event selection, he shifted to longer races, such as 100m, 200m, and 400m, showcasing his stamina. Since then, he has consistently excelled in his swimming endeavors.

Despite being amidst accomplished and professional swimmers, Seth views himself as an amateur. At the age of 88, he remains a skilled swimmer, challenging expectations and emphasizing that age should not impede the pursuit of one’s passion.

Dealing with asthma since the age of 60, Seth found solace in the water, using swimming as both an escape from asthma-related complications and a contributor to his overall well-being.

Preferring self-training over formal coaching, Seth adheres to a daily routine involving swimming, limited gym workouts, Tai Chi, and morning laughter therapy. Despite his age, he stresses that while he may not measure up to young or Olympic swimmers, he is a comfortable and accomplished swimmer, maintaining the same speech patterns as two decades ago.

His accomplishments extend beyond national borders. His participation in the 2017 FINA World Masters Championship in New Zealand showcased his unyielding spirit. Although he didn’t secure a medal at that time, he returned triumphantly in 2019, winning four gold medals.

Among numerous competitions and victories, Seth holds a special place for his recent achievement at the 19th National Masters Championship in Mangaluru, Karnataka, where he claimed all four gold medals. The enthusiastic applause, cheers, and acknowledgment from the president added an extra layer of pride and joy to his remarkable journey.

“I earned four gold medals plus an additional one, presented by the president for my spirit, stamina, and dedication to swimming. It was a moment of pride, with the pool resonating with claps and cheers. My family, along with others, including children and grandchildren, cheered, creating a surreal experience!” Seth shared.

As a modest guide for those contemplating professional swimming, Seth underscores the enduring nature of swimming. Encouraging individuals of all ages to embrace the sport, he highlights its wonderful benefits and the joy of training in the water. “When I think of swimming, the image of a child in his mother’s lap comes to my mind, moving his hands and legs. That is the level of comfort and joy it brings,” Seth remarked.

Acknowledging the growing awareness of swimming in India, he shares his belief that swimming is a universally beneficial exercise, irrespective of age. As Seth continues to overcome barriers and inspire others, his next goal is to conquer the World Masters Championship scheduled for 2024.

At the recently concluded 19th National Masters Swimming Championship in Mangaluru, Karnataka, octogenarian Om Seth not only secured four gold medals but also earned an additional one for his unwavering spirit and enduring love for swimming.


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