Asian Games 2018: Swimmer Sajan Prakash relieved after missing family members rescued from Kerala floods

Jakarta: Indian swimmer Sajan Prakash has been to hell and back at the Asian Games, competing in Jakarta while family members went missing in severe flooding in Kerala.

The 24-year-old became the first swimmer to reach last weekend's 200 metres butterfly final despite the knowledge that five relatives had not been found and his family home in Kerala had been destroyed by floodwater.

India's Sajan Prakash prepares to compete in a heat of the men’s 100m butterfly swimming event during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 22, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD / “The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Jewel SAMAD has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [India's Sajan Prakash]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require.”

Sajan Prakash prepares to compete in a heat of the 100m butterfly event. AFP/Jewel Samad

Prakash finished outside the medals in fifth, but his prayers were answered after an uncle called to inform him his family members had survived the devastating floods in Kerala that have killed more than 350 people.

"I had trouble sleeping, thinking about my family," Prakash told AFP.

"I hadn't heard from them because they were cut off from the (phone) network and not able to contact us," he added.

"I was very nervous but my uncle called to say they're all safe and everything is alright back home."

Prakash's mother Shantymol, who is based in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, initially kept news of the disaster from her son so he could concentrate on his performances at the regional Olympics.

But after finding out about the floods from friends, Prakash had to put his anxiety to one side despite losing contact his family members, with no word from Kerala for three days.

"I knew that the rain was getting worse (in Kerala) when I arrived in Jakarta but I didn't know it was this bad," Prakash said after Wednesday's 100m fly heats.

"But that's what we train for — to swim under pressure. Either way I can't help, I just have to focus on what I have to do."

After becoming the first Indian swimmer to reach an Asian Games final in more than 30 years, Prakash clocked a national record of one minute, 57.75 seconds — a distant 3.22 seconds behind Japanese winner Daiya Seto.

Prakash, who swam for India at the 2016 Rio Olympics, insisted he never thought of quitting the Asian Games.

"I prepared for this for a long time and I didn't want to screw it up by leaving," he said.

"My teammates kept me entertained and focused — being with them is different from being alone.

"It was my dream to get a medal in the Asian Games from childhood," added Prakash.

"I've worked for it very hard — I did whatever was possible to do. If I would have placed top three it would have been a gift for my family. It would have been great."

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Updated Date: Aug 22, 2018 13:12:26 IST