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In the world of competitive swimming, where every stroke is a testament to years of dedication and discipline, emerges a young athlete whose passion for the sport propels him to extraordinary feats. Meet Jashua Thomas, the rising star of Indian swimming, whose journey in the pool has been nothing short of inspiring.
Jashua has carved a niche for himself in the world of Indian aquatic sports. His most recent triumph at the BRICS Games 2023, clinching the Bronze medal in the fiercely contested 50m Breaststroke event with an impressive timing of 29:89, has solidified his status as a rising star in the swimming arena.
In this exclusive interview, we have the privilege to unravel the compelling story of Jashua Thomas. Beyond the glimmering medals and accolades lies a tale of rigorous training, unwavering determination, and the pursuit of perfection. Join us as we delve into the depths of Jashua’s journey, exploring the challenges he’s conquered, the sacrifices he’s made, and the unyielding passion that fuels his quest for greatness.
Prepare to be inspired by the profound dedication and remarkable achievements of this exceptional athlete. As we navigate through the waters of his experiences, you will gain unique insights into the mind and heart of a true swimming champion. Welcome to an illuminating conversation with Jashua Thomas, where professionalism meets passion, and dedication meets triumph.
Can you give an introduction about yourself to our audience and share with us how you got started in the world of swimming? What inspired you to take up this sport? Were there any specific role models or swimmers you looked up to when you were starting out?
I’m Joshua Thomas from Tamil Nadu. I have been swimming for 13 years now. I started swimming during my kindergarten, where I was trying to find a suitable extracurricular activity for myself for my overall development. In this regard, my coach witnessed my swimming performance and told my parents that I have potential of performing well if guided properly. Hence, I started practicing swimming in the evenings after school.
My first swim meet was a district level one where I was placed last. I took it a bit personally and started giving it all to emerge better in the following meets. Soon after that I won a gold medal in the district level tournament, and received achievements at the state level as well.
My first national progress was winning a bronze medal in relay. Besides, I also won a gold medal in relay last year in Junior Nationals 2022 along with four silvers and three bronze.
I just completed my 12th grade at the Balakrishna secondary school. Presently, I am pursuing my undergraduate studies at Loyola College Chennai. The last swim meet I participated in was the Senior National Championship in Hyderabad which was quite fun.
The next tournament I engaged in was the National Games Trial conducted in Chennai. I also participated in the CM Trophy tournament where the state government rewarded us with cash.
We were witnessing your progress and observed that you had a long sequence of winning gold medals and one bronze in Khelo India. So is it something that Khelo India as a format is exciting to you and you bring out your best every time you go there?
Yeah, Khelo India 2021 was a game changer for my career as that was when I dropped my swim time. At Khelo India 2021, I won two bronze medals. In 2022 unfortunately I had a shoulder injury and I couldn’t bag a medal as I had to take a five month break. I couldn’t even get in the pool so that was a major setback for me.
Khelo India is fun as well as competitive. We get accommodation and time to chill with our swimming mates which is not the scene in Junior and Senior Nationals. As we are not provided with such facilities, or the time to get along with our competitors.
So is there any secret recipe to your success in Khelo India?
So the only key to success in Khelo India or for that matter any game is to be in a calm mindset. I remember one time I was sitting at an airport with immense pressure on my shoulder to perform well when my friend called me up and asked me to just go enjoy and be in the moment. These words of his are something which I still carry with me in every tournament and that helps me get better during challenging times.
Absolutely. We think having the right mindset before every game is extremely important. Recently we were checking your senior nationals record, you hit the time of 53.5s in the 100 freestyle. Is that your personal best so far?
I did 52.4s in Commonwealth selections. I wasn’t fully recovered back then from traveling. Though my personal best was, when I went in the 50m breaststroke with a time of 29.3. In the 50m freestyle, I was the only junior to qualify for the finals, where I went 23.8 however my PB at the moment is 23.2.
One of the things which you just mentioned is being motivated and trying to come out better the next day. Do you set any targets for yourself?
Yeah. It’s like, some days I’ll be like I got better from yesterday. And this will be like I got better from a week before. It depends on how hard we went on the previous days and previous week, right.
The thing I focus on is if not today or tomorrow, one day I will get better. That’s my motivation to do my best in every session. Also, yes I do set targets before every meet. So a month before a meet is scheduled, I set timers and ensure that this is the time I have to score on the particular meet and keep practicing around it.
So, that is more challenging as I set my perspectives on the basis of national and the swimmers we will be competing against from different states.
What was the target that you had set for the senior nationals in Hyderabad recently? Do you think that you were able to meet it?
I had my target for 51s in the 100 freestyle. I just had 52s two to four weeks before senior nationals and I was aiming to get to 51s. I was trying to hit 29-28s or 29 early in the 50m breastroke because 29.4s was the Junior cut. Myself, Vidyut and Aryan were there for the finals who made the cut. Eventually in the senior national event 50m breaststroke, I achieved my target.
Coming back to the strokes we were discussing earlier in Khelo India, you were doing all the formats 50m, 100m, 200m and 400m. However, in recent swimming in the senior nationals you were focusing more on breaststroke and freestyle in 100m.
Is there any specific reason for cutting down? Moreover, butterfly is apparently what many men swimmers want to do. Is there any reason why you believe butterfly events are not suited for you?
So 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke and 50m and 100m freestyle are the formats that I am playing for Khelo India as well.
Moreover, I wouldn’t say that my freestyle and breaststroke is better than butterfly. As I went 25.5s in 50m fly which was not bad from a point of Senior Nationals. I just hit it three days ago. Normally the other 5 events of mine are better which is why I skip fly and backstroke and focus on others.
And any reason for picking 50m and 100m free? And then 50m, 100m, 200m breaststroke.. I’m trying to ask you if you are thinking that the shorter format is something you’re good at?
I’m actually good at Sprints, so my 200th time is actually away from the National medal timings. My 50m and 100m are in the perspective of medal timings. So, keeping that in mind, I would actually focus on those Sprints.
My 25m, 50m and 100m are always the best compared to the senior National Medals and the top swimmers in India.
How do you differentiate between the longer formats, vs sprinting where you normally Sprint 50m and 100m? If you can tell us for our audience, for those who might be wanting to start somewhere, how should they pick, whether they should go for shorter sprints or they should go for longer versions? What forms the decision factor?
For me, personally, my coach decided what my events are, because he saw that special skill in me. He observed that I was good at sprinting in 50m and 100 m and he wanted to put me in those 20 bands since I was 10 years old.
Your first competitive tournament – may not be nationals/state level/district level. It could be your competitive tournament, versus now the most recent tournament, what’s the improvement you sense overall?
Early years when I started, it would be like 1 minute in the 50m freestyle and now it’s 23.2s. So, I believe since I started, you can say that, I have come a long way and there are many more miles to achieve.
My motivation was based on every single tournament. Not all tournaments are yours, as you win some and lose in some. So I faced a lot of disappointments and failures along the way. I kept on pushing myself to achieve higher. My parents were also quite supportive during that time. That’s how from one minute to 23.2s. This is the success of life.
So this is a bit about sports, could you just tell us a little bit about your family, your background?
My dad, Thomas DeRay, is a businessman and my mom, Maria, is a teacher. I also have a younger brother, Derek. He is in 12th grade and is also pursuing competitive swimming like me. He has participated at the State level where he won a Gold medal.
My mom just resigned her teaching job for me, as I need her assistance and she had to take care of me which I believe is one of the biggest sacrifices she has made for me, and I am forever grateful to her for that. She used to wake up at 3am to pack my lunch as I used to leave at 5am.
She even had to make my morning, afternoon, and evening snacks altogether in the morning which is a big task. She found it hard to manage it with her work, so she left her work. My dad on the other hand used to drive me 20 kms to my school for practice every day. It was like a 40 kms drive, and then back. So, 40 kms every day, morning and evening.
They both have constantly been pushing me and giving me all of their time, energy and support in every manner possible throughout my journey and I guess I owe all of my achievements to them so far in life.
What is your perspective on swimming? From all the wins, losses and trophies you get, what is your belief as a human being?
To be honest, we get a lot of focus, determination and discipline from the sport. As per my coach, most athletes have a brighter mind than the normal day scholars, because sports reduces our stress levels. It just regulates our mind so well. We just feel blissful. It’s actually the best sport as far as I know. I tried all the sports from basketball, cricket, football, during my free time. Swimming was the sport which made me feel like this is where my forte lies. The feeling and happiness I got receiving medals for my achievement in the sport, is one of the best things so far in my life.
Just a follow up question to this, smaller meets, the smaller state level, club level tournaments, you might have participated when you were a young kid..how important are those small wins, small trophies?
Yes, definitely as those are the small bay steps to reach higher levels. Because those are the means and ways to get better. I still remember my first individual championship around 10 years back, as it makes me realize how far I’ve come from there. It was really special for me, as that individual championship was completely different. It was my first ever win.
And if I may also ask you as a follow up question, if any of the meets or any of the district or state level tournaments did not go as per your plan? How did you cope up with it?
Yeah, I’ve gone through meets like that. It was the 2019 ZFS selection, state state meet, I had my shoulder issues and couldn’t practice well. So, other swimmers went ahead of me and at that moment I was really heartbroken. It was really painful for me. I almost thought of giving up, but then I reflected and realized that it was because of my shoulder pain that I am unable to perform.
I was better than them and I will not give up without giving my all. I’m gonna try again, and if I fail again, okay, then I’ll try again. I keep on trying to beat them.
It’s like winning that gold medal in that particular age group and setting your targets for that. It’s the easy way to progress.
Any decisions you might have regretted in your journey?
The decision I took, which I would regret right now, is that I didn’t swim for five months when I had the right shoulder injury. I felt like I should have at least got into the water and did some kicking stuff like that. But I didn’t even get in the pool because I thought that if I don’t do anything, I will recover.
Has it ever been that you have been to some events like weddings etc. where you don’t have the facility to practice? As swimmers you have a habit to practice 5 to 6 hours a day with dryland and other stuff. How do you manage in those situations?
Honestly, I have never been in that situation. I don’t go for any occasions or events that require me to take days off, as my routine is quite different. My dad avoided all such occasions as he didn’t want me to skip my sessions.
I would swim for 6 sessions in the morning in one week. There are four sessions of dryland on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Sunday would be off and I would study on that day. I never get time to go out with friends as I am quite packed all day.
My normal routine is like I leave in the morning at 5am and my practice sessions start from 6am to 8-8:30 am, then school is from 9am to 3:30pm, and after that I have my evening swim sessions from 4pm to 7pm. I am back by 8pm, have my dinner at 8:30pm and sleep by 9:00pm.
How do you manage your tournaments, your practice sessions and all with school?
My teachers and peers have been extremely supportive throughout my journey. They kept on motivating me with my homework, assignments as well as my examinations, which has helped me reach this stage today. They used to provide me with the time to cover my syllabus while achieving my dream in my sports which was quite helpful.
So what will be your message to young kids on how to balance their study with their passion?
As per my dad, we should do one thing at a time. When you are swimming then focus on that and when you are studying, vice versa. Never combine two activities together as it will affect both the things and you will end up failing in both. This has resonated with me so much and has allowed me to excel so far in my life.
Curious..Has it ever been that you reached late to your swimming sessions and been asked to do extra laps or punished for it?
I have faced it several times. My first coach was Anthony sir who guided me through during my initial stages of swimming career. He used to thrash me a lot back then, though now I realize how those moments were important for me to be disciplined and determined.
Coming back to the sports, what’s your vision right now?
My dream is to represent my country on the international circuit. I got two chances and missed them due to injury. I am keen on embarking on the next opportunity whenever it comes. The next tournament I am looking forward to is the National Games 2023 which is two months from now being held in Goa.
I am practicing young capacity, underwater training and breath hole sessions where I am trying to hit maximum in the main set with targeted amounts of breath like 50m and 25m. After this I have breath hold practice sessions for my lung capacity for the upcoming tournament.
Do you have any role models in this sport?
In the Indian circuit, my role models are Virdhawal Khade in freestyle, Sajjan Prakash in butterfly and in breaststroke it is Sandeep Sejwal.
In the International circuit it’s Adam Peaty, as I love his power, stroke and energy. It is just the next level I feel.
Can you also tell us who is your coach at the moment and where are you training?
My coach is Basha who used to train with me & right now is my coach. He is very humble and is very supportive towards us, which is one of the best things. I am training in my school (SAV Balakrishna Matriculation Higher Secondary School) itself at the moment. We have excellent facilities here and our correspondence Principal supports us immensely to excel in our career.
What are your training sessions like? Also, do you have any nutritionist?
I hit a whole body exercise one day which is strength training, cardio, weight training and then focus on mobility on the other day. I keep the same routine for three weeks and then switch it.
I have a nutritionist named Shalini who guides me for my diet. Her guidance has helped me a lot and I can see the improvement. She changed my energy levels as it was dropping earlier. She made me eat limited amounts of sugar and provided me with a mix of fibers, proteins, carbs and everything.
If you had a talk show, who would be your dream first guest?
My dream guest would be the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu
If you could have any celebrity as your swim buddy for a day, who would you choose?
I would choose MS Dhoni as my celebrity buddy for my swimming session.
If you could switch roles with your coach for a day, what’s the first thing you’d have them do?
I would give them the biggest aerobic session.
One thing you’d never forget to pack in your swim bag?
My body lotion as I get very dry after my practice sessions.
What’s your go-to guilty pleasure for a relaxing day?
The last movie I watched was Transformers. Not much into watching movies etc.
If you weren’t pursuing a career in swimming, what dream job would you love to have?
I guess I would be a swimming coach.
Who is that someone you look up to outside of the athletic world?
It would be Steve Harvey, as I follow him closely.
What type of music do you listen to most often?
I like soft melody kind of music as it helps me calm down and relax.
CynergySports thanks & wishes Jashua, a safe health & a great success in years to come.
Onwards & Upwards…!! We thank you for your time & your support to the swimming community.
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