Meet the youngest Olympian in Rio, Gaurika Singh

Meet the youngest Olympian in Rio, Gaurika Singh

 Gaurika Singh showing off her medal at the Rio Olympics 2016. Cover credit:  WikiNP

Gaurika Singh showing off her medal at the Rio Olympics 2016. Cover credit: WikiNP

At 13 years old, Gaurika Singh is the youngest athlete participating in this year’s Rio Olympics. Born on Nov. 22, 2002, in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city, she is currently in Rio de Janeiro representing her country in the 100-meter women’s backstroke.

Since she started professional swimming in 2014, she has held many national records, including one silver and three bronze medals for swimming at the 2016 South Asian Games.

As a result of her father being a urologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London, the young swimmer lives in Britain and trains at the Copthall Swimming Club.

Beside her age, Singh is 5 feet 1 inch tall and baby-faced, and she wears braces. Based on her appearance, it’s hard to believe she’s already an Olympian. In fact, Singh was stopped by security officers while entering the Olympic pool in Rio. “Sorry, athletes only,” a woman from the staff told her before noticing her pool deck access accreditation.

Singh is a survivor of the strong earthquake that shook Nepal in April 2015. She was back in Kathmandu with her family, preparing to compete in the national swimming championship, when she was forced to take shelter under a table in a five-story office building to stay safe.

“Luckily we were in a new office building,” Singh said about the experience. “So it shook, but nothing was damaged and it didn’t collapse. But places around us were destroyed. I can’t really remember anything. It was just one big blur with everything shaking. [...] But I remember on the airplane leaving I was thinking, ‘Is it going to go again as we’re taking off?’”

 Gaurika Singh during a training session at Barnett Copthall Swimming Club in London in July before the Olympics. Credit:  Kaushal Adhikari/The Kathmandu Post

Gaurika Singh during a training session at Barnett Copthall Swimming Club in London in July before the Olympics. Credit: Kaushal Adhikari/The Kathmandu Post

After the disaster, a friend of Singh’s father created a charity to raise reconstruction funds, and she became an ambassador of Nepal promoting the initiative. She used the four medals she won at the 2016 South Asian Games to help the cause.

The 2016 Rio Olympics, which made her known as the ‘Olympic baby,’ have also been an occasion to sensitize donors. Over there, Singh completed a 100-meter backstroke in a time of 1:08.45, and did not qualify for the semifinals. But at her age, she is already an inspiration to many.

Even though she left her home country in 2004 at the age of two, Singh is very passionate about her family’s origins, so representing Britain in Rio was not something she took for granted.

“Eventually I could have represented England, but I’m not English, so there’s not much point in being a Nepalese representing Britain,” she said.

“I felt so grateful that I was one of those who survived that whole earthquake, so just to be here, to make my country proud, is great.”

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