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Quake survivor Singh proud to be making waves for Nepal

China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-22 09:19
Nepal's Gaurika Singh reacts after her 100m freestyle heat at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Monday. [AP]

Having survived a killer earthquake and an embarrassing wardrobe glitch at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Nepali swimmer Gaurika Singh is not your typical 15-year-old.

The bubbly schoolgirl made waves as the youngest athlete at the Olympics but is happy to shed that tag after coming out of her shell since her baby-faced appearance in Brazil.

"A lot of my friends say I'm really loud, which is fair enough because I am," Singh said at the Asian Games on Monday.

"I sometimes think in my head, 'Oh just shut up, Gaurika - you're so annoying!' I'm a social person."

Singh, who left Nepal as a toddler to move to London, got into a flap in Rio when she tore her swimsuit minutes before her 100m backstroke heat, but then slipped on a new one and won the race.

Fast forward two years and Singh is strolling around the Asian Games pool in Jakarta like a seasoned pro.

She is a whopping six years older than Indonesian skateboarder Aliqqa Novvery, who at nine is the youngest athlete at the Games.

"I was only just starting to swim at that age," said Singh, who is no longer even the youngest member of Nepal's swim team.

Her destiny could have taken a tragic turn three years ago, however, after getting caught on the top floor of a five-story building in Kathmandu when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck, forcing her to dive under a table for shelter.

The quake claimed 9,000 lives but did nothing to keep Singh away from her native country.

"It's kind of a blur," she said of that ordeal.

"My mom was with me but it was still really scary. I was just lucky.

"But I still go to Nepal twice a year - not living there helps me appreciate it more. I love swimming for my country."

Singh trains with her national team every summer but practices in Britain the rest of the time.

Nepal has just one swimming pool after the other was destroyed in the quake and it freezes over in winter, ruling out anything other than gym work.

"It's weird to think people in England are so ungrateful sometimes," she said.

"They moan about having to swim during the winter. People in Nepal would kill to be able to do that."

Singh, who swims in the 200m free on Wednesday, said she gets regular messages of support from friends back in Nepal but that she is banned from spending too much time online.

"My mom controls my Facebook," she laughed.

"Some messages are not what a 15-year-old wants to hear - like 'Will you marry me?'

"I don't think I want to be exposed to that at my age!"

Agence France-Presse



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