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Here’s How Indian Swimmer Bula Chowdhury Became World’s 1st Woman To Cross The Seven Seas

  • IWB Post
  •  September 16, 2019

“As a young swimmer, I have broken, and established new records which were left unbeaten for several years. My participation in championships—from the Commonwealth Games to the Asian championships etc.— was not just a determination to make a mark, but a result of my true love for the water,” says Bula Chowdhury, world’s first woman to cross the seven seas.

Bula Chowdhury’s talent was discovered by her parents at an early age when she began swimming in a pond close to her house in West Bengal. With the motivation from her parents and a burning passion from within, Bula decided to take up swimming professionally.

Bula Chowdhury

Coming from a small town, Bula initially did not even have an idea of what a swimsuit looked like when she started swimming. She would thus wear a frock to the pool. However, one fine day her mother saw a swimsuit in a shop and decided to stitch it herself for her daughter. Due to the poor financial condition of the family, her mother couldn’t afford to stitch a swimsuit of high-quality fabric and thus she made one out of cotton.

However, despite the obstacles that came her way, nothing deterred Bula’s spirit and she went on to train under her coach who soon enough realised her high potential.

The Better India reported Bula’s coach Bernard Johnke saying, “Bula is far superior to the other 14 girls in my camp and easily the best potential in the country. She is at an early age when her body is not yet fully formed, and so she can adapt better to techniques that will help improve her timings.”

Neither Bula’s journey as a swimmer, nor her dreams were restricted to the boundaries of the pool, she wished to conquer the sea. That’s how she started her training to swim in the English Channel in the year 1989. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed as allergic to the saline seawater. However, she did not let even that break her spirit.

“My skin would burn and itch all night after the swim. But I wasn’t going to let such obstacles stop me from pursuing my dream. I always wanted to be a professional swimmer and what great thing can be achieved if not for a few obstacles and challenges?” she said.

She added, “They say water is life and it stands true for me even professionally. Although I did day jobs for a brief period, I realised that swimming is only what I am truly passionate about. And this kept me going. And this determination has made me achieve what I have.”

Bula crossed the English Channel twice, first in the year 1989 when she was 19 years old and again after a gap of ten years.

In her swimming career of 24 years, Bula earned the distinction of becoming the first woman in the world to swim across the seven seas in five continents. In 2004 she set a world record by swimming across the Palk Straits from Talaimannar in Sri Lanka to Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu in nearly 14 hours.

With so many achievements in her swimming career, Bula has earned the honor to become the first woman to swim across the English channel twice and she has been awarded the Arjuna Award by the Indian Government in the year 1990. Apart from this recognition, she is also a recipient of the Padma Shri and India’s fourth highest civilian award.

H/T: The Better India

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