Rewriting the Golden History: IIT Kanpur Aquatics

When the going got tough, the tough got going – IITK Aquatics Team

“Individual talents win games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” It may have been quoted several times in different contexts, but this is exactly what I felt in my final inter IIT aquatics meet this year when the IIT-K Aquatics team lifted the Water Polo Championship for the first time ever in its history in the recently held 42nd Inter IIT Aquatics Meet at Guwahati. An unprecedented run of victories inundated our team with an enormous sense of achievement as we ended up as champions in boys’ water polo and runners up in girls’ swimming. Pawan become the top scorer with 19 goals to his credit while Kush, Ankit, and Abhishek Gupta quelled the opponents with their unyielding temperament.  Last year, girls were champions in swimming and boys were runners up in water polo. The Aquatics team ‘founded’ by our alumni Avik Bhandari and Trishla Singh three years back as an assortment of “water polo-ignorant” swimmers has come a long way since. The sheer joy of accomplishment that stems from fulfillment of a long nurtured dream now permeates us all. More so because this was not the result of a freak cauldron of luck potion toppling on us, but the outcome of three years of plain hard work, three years of failures and three years of resilience.  Being thrashed 22-0 in IIT Delhi (due to lack of knowledge of rules) and then losing 4-5 in IIT Madras in 2004 to be knocked out of the tournament on the very first day would be enough for any team to lose all morale but we stood up to face the challenge. We sat there, watched and scrutinized all the matches, absorbing even the basic skills and strategies of attack and defence from all teams. After months of hard work and improvisation, we began our victory march at Roorkee by thrashing teams by scores like 14-0, the tables had turned and it was payback time. The league matches against Bombay and Delhi were cake walks and in the semifinals Kharagpur had to succumb to a 5-0 loss. In the finals against Madras, we came close but unfortunately not close enough and ended up as runners up. Many thought that their goalkeeper made the difference but I think we did not have the right temperament as we never thought that we would be able to make it to the final.  After Avik graduated the seniors stepped into his shoes comfortably and the team geared up for the next challenge. In Guwahati, the first match was against Roorkee, which we expected to be a well prepared team, and we were justified after a score of 1-0 after first quarter. But our attack demolished them in the next three quarters. The final score read 15-3. This win reinforced our confidence and faith. In the next match, we bruised the Bombay team’s egos yet again with a final score of 10-6.In the third match against Delhi, we devastated them 13-2, and each one of us, including the goalie was on the score sheet.  On 3rd October, a year after we had been beaten by Madras in Roorkee, we were up against them again.

This was by far the longest, most exhausting and in the end most exhilarating water polo match ever played between any two teams. At full time, the game was tied at 5-5 due to the rock solid defense by both teams. The match remained undecided even after the extra time of play. Penalty shoot outs were the order of the day, with 5 to each team. When we were trailing 3-2 on penalties with Madras to take the next shot most of us thought that it was all over. Kush, who was guarding the post, stepped up to the occasion to maneuver a dramatic save bringing us back in the game. Ankit converted the last penalty that pushed the match into ‘Sudden Death’. Kush continued his magical run by saving the next penalty and then converted his shot which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.  The stage was now all set for the final showdown against Bombay. After the first 8 minutes, we were trailing by 1-5 and asked for a time out. Our hearts were pounding loud in our ears and pulses soaring high. It was the time to put in that extra effort which can only be driven by years of longing for the moment which was before us. It had come again and we did not let it pass this time. In the next 6 minutes we turned the game on its head to lead 7-5 at half time. Eventually, after few hiccups the final score was 12-9 and the celebrations began as never before. The long wait for a gold to the IITK Water Polo team was finally over. When it comes to women’s events we don’t have a secret weapon. But Akanksha Gupta outdid all her earlier feats when she won GOLD medals in 4 out of the 5 events held namely 50m and 100m free style, 50m back stroke and 50m butterfly. Girls’ team comprising Shaheen, Akanksha, Kumud and Snigdha also won a silver medal in 4x50m relay all of them recording their best timings ever. In boys’ swimming events we had a better performance than last year with Ankit missing the bronze marginally in 100m breast stroke. Prateek Gupta showed promise as he recorded quite competitive timings in many events. The boys’ team comprising of Rahul Sharma, Ankit Jain, Prateek Gupta and Anurag Meena stood 4th in 4x100m relay free style. The team leapt over all hurdles that came in its way. We had seen a dream and made it come true. It has been an epic journey for all of us with a lot more to it than just sports. We will all cherish the moments when we laughed, cried, teased and huddled up together more than anything else in our lives. While lifting the trophy I remember seeing all eyes alit with our team motto: “One for All and All for One”.

Coach: V. R. Vadi

Team: Kush Shah, Abhishek Gupta, Swapnil Bhaskar, Ankit Jain, Pawan Kadyan, Rahul Sharma, Anurag Meena, Dharmananda Gahir, Vikas Joshi, Rohan Bhargava, Prateek Gupta, Shaheen Shah, Akanksha Gupta, Kumud Gautami, Snigdha Chaturvedi. A team comprises of each and everyone who has put in the efforts towards the cause. A special mention is due to Abhishek Poddar, Vikas Shingade and R N Kaushal; they deserve the laurels as much as anyone else.

This article was written by Swapnil Bhaskar for Vox Populi, October 2006