Written by Priya Kujur, a grade 11 student
Arati Saha was the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel. She set this record on the 29th of September 1959, swimming 42 miles from Cape Greece Nez, France to Sandgate, England.
On the 24 of September 2020, Google honoured Arati Saha with a doodle. This was created by a Kolkata, artist Lavanya Naidu. Naidu hopes her drawing will help inspire people everywhere to – ‘Dream big, no matter where you come from’.
In 1960, she became the first Indian sportswoman to be awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour in India. Born in Kolkata, India, Arati started swimming at the early age of four.
How did Arati cross the English Channel?
Arati Saha attempted to swim through the English Channel twice. On her first attempt, she failed to reach. She tried again, and on 29th September 1959, Arati succeeded, covering a distance of 67.5Km in 16 hours and 20 minutes where she hoisted the flag of India.
Her early life
Arati Saha was born in Kolkata on 24th September 1940. She started swimming early in her life, at the age of 4 in the river Hugli in Kolkata. Her mentor was Sachin Nag, one of India’s best competitive swimmers.
In 1946 at the age of five, she won a gold medal in a 110 yards freestyle race at the Shailendra Memorial Swimming Competition. By the time Arati was 11, she was already known as a swimming prodigy. At 12, she joined India’s first team to participate in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
Saha’s Awards and Achievements
The iconic swimmer received multiple honours and broke many records in her life, including setting an All India record in 1949, and breaking Dolly-Nazir’s all India record in the 1951 West Bengal Meet. She also represented the subcontinent at the 1952 Summer Olympics.
Arati won around 22 medals in her career. In 1999, the Department of Posts created a stamp in her honour. In 1996, a bust of Arati Saha was erected near her residence. The 100-meter long lane in front of the bust was renamed after her.
In 1960, she received the Padma Shri, -India’s 4th highest civilian honour. She was the first Indian sportswoman to receive the award. On the day that would have been her 80th birthday in 2020, she was featured in a Google doodle.
Her later life
Arati Saha married to Dr. Arun Gupta in 1959, her long-time manager. They have a daughter, Archana who works for the railways.
In 19914, Arati contracted jaundice and encephalitis. After battling against the illness for 19 days, she died on 23 August 1994.
Inspiration She was an inspiring woman for all of us. She taught us never to give up – she failed in her first attempt, but she never lost her strength and showed courage to try to swim through the English channel a second time, when she succeeded.
What is the English Channel?
The English Channel, is a part of the Atlantic Ocean that separates England from France. It is the busiest shipping area in the world.
It is about 560 kilometers long and in width, it is 240 km at its widest and 34 km at its narrowest.
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