Training for the Olympic dream

Fifteen-year-old Arnav Divaker has always been passionate about his favourite sport - swimming.

Not only was this Pune-born the swimming captain at Bishop Cotton Boys' School in Bengaluru where he did his elementary education, he has also been part of the Karnataka swim team since 2014.

Training under India's swimming coach Pradeep Kumar, Arnav achieved a new personal best of 29.75sec in the 50m butterfly stroke at the State Championships in 2014. He has also been part of the 100m and 200m freestyle Karnataka relay teams that hold the current national records in India in his age group categories. He has won 107 medals to date.

In 2014, the competitive swimmer moved to Singapore from Bengaluru with his parents when his mother was offered a job here.

Arnav was surfing the Internet to do research on various schools when he chanced upon GEMS World Academy (Singapore). "I found that the school had 55 years of teaching experience and was offering a sports scholarship. I thought it was a perfect fit for me as I wanted to pursue swimming as well as my studies.

"I sent them a list of my swimming achievements and a personal statement and I was really happy that I got called for the interview," he said.

His application was accepted and he enrolled in the school, which boasts a 50m Olympic-size swimming pool with a movable bulkhead, in August this year.

Arnav received one of the sports scholarships that GEMS World Academy (Singapore) offers. The school located in Yishun gives scholarships to students who display outstanding ability and attitude across a range of disciplines such as sports, arts, academics and entrepreneurship.

Even though it has been only three weeks since Arnav has been at the school, the Grade 9 student is "impressed with the teachers and sports educators".

"The teachers are really specialised in what they do. Most of the sports educators were previously sportsmen themselves so they know what I'm going through and they are always available to help me," said the butterfly and freestyle stroke specialist.

His mother, Ms Mona Dange, shares the same sentiment: "I found that the teachers are highly experienced and are specialists in their area of expertise; which makes a great difference in their teaching.

"Since Arnav is a competitive swimmer and committed to continue his sports along with his academic studies, GEMS World Academy (Singapore) understands, appreciates and supports him better than any other school."

Aquatics co-ordinator of the school and ex-Olympic team coach Steve Betts gives him stroke-specific training so that he excels as a swimmer.

The self-driven teen trains four to five hours a day from Monday to Saturday at the Swimfast Aquatic Club. Out of the pool, he likes to watch motor show Top Gear and comedy films. To ensure his grades don't suffer, he sets aside time in the evenings to finish his homework and revise what he has learnt in class.

The young athlete, who wants to pursue engineering and then business management in the future, looks up to Olympic medallist Michael Phelps and backstroke world record-holder Aaron Peirsol. "Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time and I want to be just like him while Peirsol has a great character. He stays focused on his goals and he's very humble whenever he receives his medals at the podium."

Arnav hopes to represent India at the Olympics one day.

For more information about GEMS World Academy (Singapore), visit or call 6808-7300.

Get a copy of tabla! for more stories.