When the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) announced the 524-member contingent for the upcoming Asian Games, Bharath Pereira was distraught. Sports Climbing was to make its debut in Jakarta but to the disappointment of the 18-year-old, a National climbing champion for seven consecutive years, including the last one as a senior, India did not name a squad.

Four weeks hence, Bharath is a happy man after the IOA amended the list to include a team of three with Maibam Chingkheinganba from Manipur and Shreya Nankar from Maharashtra the other two. “I am really excited to be going there,” Bharath told
The Hindu
on Saturday. “There is also the Youth Olympics in October. So really happy.”

Medal winner

Bharath has won medals at multiple editions of the Asian Youth Championships, the latest being the silver in 2015. But Asian Games will be way tougher. “Thus far the only exposure I have had is the Asian youth level. I haven’t been to the senior competitions.

“For someone who is just out of his youth, it’s easy to feel intimidated competing against some of the world’s best,” he reckons.

Also, as against the standard three climbing events — lead, speed and bouldering — Jakarta will see speed, a speed relay and a category which combines all three of the above.

In fact, at Tokyo 2020, where climbing will make its debut in Olympics, the only medal on offer will be in the combined event.

Bharath though is losing no sleep. As preparation, the Bengaluru lad was recently in Bhubaneswar, which he says has India’s best training facility.

“The Indian Mountaineering Foundation had invited coach Kristofer Peters from the United States. He has trained a couple of climbers who have been on the podium at World Cups. It was good learning from him.”

Even though medals seem a long shot, Bharath feels he can make a mark in speed. After having completed his pre-university education from St. Joseph’s College, he has taken a year off just to train.

“Speed is standardised across the world. The holds are at the same position and at the same distance from each other.

“The 15m high walls have the same angles throughout the world. The record timing is 5.48s but if you hit below 6.20s, it’s anybody’s game. That will be my target.”

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