Kolkata: Arati Saha, Olympic swimmer known for being the first woman from Asia to swim across the English Channel, would have celebrated her 80th birthday on Thursday, had she been alive.
Famous search engine Google today celebrates the 80th birthday of long distance swimmer Arati Saha with mesmerizing doodle.
Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Kolkata native and guest artist Lavanya Naidu, celebrates the 80th birthday of the trailblazing Indian swimmer, Arati Saha.
On September 29, 1959, Saha covered a breathtaking 42 miles from Cape Gris Nez, France to Sandgate, England (a route depicted in today’s Doodle) to become the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel—a feat considered the swimming equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.
Arati was born on this day in 1940 in Calcutta, British India (Kolkata, India). At four years old, she learned to swim on the banks of the Hooghly River, and her precocious skill in the water soon attracted the mentorship of one of India’s top competitive swimmers, Sachin Nag.
Impressed by Arati’s natural talent and affinity for swimming, Nag took her under his wings and the little girl blossomed under his guidance. Under Nag’s wing, Saha won her first swimming gold medal when she was only five, and it was certainly not her last.
Arati’s passion for swimming ensured that her progress in the sport was quick: between 1946 and 1951, she won 22 state-level competitions in swimming events like 100m freestyle, 100m breast stroke and 200m breast stroke.
In 1948, she won two silvers – in 100m freestyle and 200m breast stroke – and a bronze – in 200m freestyle – at the national championship held in Mumbai.
A record-setting prodigy by just 11 years old, Saha became the youngest member (and one of only four women) on the first team to represent the newly independent India in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
At the age of 18, Saha made her first attempt to cross the English Channel, and though it was unsuccessful, she never gave up. Just over a month later, she conquered miles of churning waves and currents to complete the journey, a historic victory for women across India.
In honour of her enduring achievements, Saha became the first-ever female recipient of India’s Padma Shri award in 1960.
She died on August 23, 1994.