Bhakti Sharma – the Water Girl of India

14th Jan, 2017

| by writesolutions

Swim against the tide, girl. We will root for you.

At Write Solutions, we consider an ‘unsung heroine’ a woman whose work/life has, for some reason gone under or unrecognized. Although, that still means most women, for this campaign series #Unsungheroines, we could only make a short (12) list of some of these incredible women.

We realise that in India, unless you are a cricketer, you cannot make it beyond the 15 seconds of fame allotted to other sports stars. Even a one-test wonder or an IPL hero is guaranteed to draw more fame and fortune than an Olympics medal winner in any other category!

Yet there are a few women who’ve broken this stereotype and carved their way to success in unconventional fields, captured everyone’s heart and given courage to those who dream of a similar career.
Meet Bhakti Sharma, the 26-year-old open water swimmer who has swum in all five oceans of the world. Coached by none other than her mother, here are glimpses into her inspiring water journey.

In the January of 14th (this Day) 2015, she set a world record by swimming 2.28 kilometres in 41.14 minutes in 1 degree temperature at Antarctic Ocean, creating the record of the longest distance ever swam in Antarctica and becoming the youngest swimmer to do so too.

In 2010, she swam 1.8 kilometres in the Arctic Ocean in the icy waters with temperature hovering between 4-6 degrees Celsius. In doing so, she became the youngest and second person in the world to achieve the task of swimming in the four oceans.

On the 22nd of February 2008, along with her coach-mother, Leena Sharma and a close friend she covered a distance of 72 kms in 16 hours and 58 minutes from Dharamtal to Gateway of India and back again creating a one of its kind swim record in India.

On the 23rd of July 2008, again accompanied by her mother and friend, she swam across the English Channel. This made them the first team of Indian/Asian women to complete it and also made them the first mother-daughter duo to accomplish this feat.

In the May of 2007, she swam a 25-kilometre stretch of the Gulf of Mexico.

On 30th September, 2007 she swam across the Strait Of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Sea (19 kms) at Tarifa, Spain in 5 hours and 13 minutes.

On 06th of August 2006, she participated in the 19th International Self Transcendence Marathon Schwimmen, Rapperswil – Zurich. The marathon was 26.4 kilometres long. She came first and became the youngest female among the under 40 age group to achieve this feat in a time of 10 hours, 41 minutes and 42 seconds.
At an age when most kids barely learn to walk, Bhakti, at two and a half years, took to water like a tadpole. Her coach was none other than her mother, Leena Sharma. Born in Mumbai and brought up in Udaipur, the passion for open waters perhaps courses through their veins.

To be sure, things didn’t come easy to Bhakti. For one, there weren’t good swimming pools to paddle around in. Plus she also faced odds as a girl swimmer. However when challenges are many, you become your own motivator.
So at a time, when most people around her would tuck themselves in warm quilts on cold winter nights, Bhakti would slink out of the warm bed, and swim for hours in the icy waters with teeth chattering. People called her, and her mother crazy.

‘Don’t give up when you are hardest hit. Rest if you must but do not quit,’ she heard her mother roar, and the cub swimmer would chant this mantra at every stroke.
Bhakti dreams to represent her country and win a gold at 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But before that she will need to win a medal at 2019 World Championships. She also plans to complete her PhD in ‘mental coaching for sports’ on the sidelines.

Music maestro, AR Rahman recently tweeted in support of Bhakti Sharma after he stumbled upon a crowd funding campaign on that sought to raise funds for the swimmer’s training.

Needless to say, Bhakti’s achievements have not come easy to her. They are hard won. Her recognition and achievements also hold no merit, if we don’t acknowledge the sacrifices that her parents may have had to put in. Her mother took voluntary retirement from a well-known bank to support Bhakti in the pursuit of her dreams. Her parents have taken loans, time and again, to finance her travel and training. The English Channel swim cost them about Rs 12 lakhs and the Antarctic expedition almost Rs 30 lakhs.

If anything, her achievement only proves that girls can be super achievers if given the right opportunities and support.


Radhika Sachdev

Content Strategist

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2 years 2 months ago

Interesting article, good to know :-)….

Nanditha Vasudev
2 years 2 months ago

Very Inspiring Radhika… Keep it Going!


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