Bengaluru, August 23: While Indian swimmer Sajan Prakash was getting ready to set the pool ablaze in the Asian Games, five members of his family were missing in the devastating flood in his home state of Kerala, a news which was kept away from so that he stayed focussed on his job.
The 24-year-old impressed by becoming the first Indian swimmer to reach an Asiad final in 32 years. Sajan clocked 1 minute and 57.75 seconds - a national record but 3.22 seconds behind champion Seto Daiya - to finish fifth in the men's 200M butterfly final.
Back home, his home state of Kerala continued to battle its worst flood in a century with dozens of people missing and millions sheltering in the camps.
Sajan's family went missing initially, though they managed to withstand nature's fury and were found to be safe later.
Relief for India swimmer Sajan Prakash, who has been to hell and back at the #AsianGames2018, as his family is found safe in Kerala's killer floods— AFP Sport (@AFP_Sport) August 22, 2018
By @alastairhimmerhttps://t.co/B0OvynWVNX pic.twitter.com/rk89hzMbt9
"I didn't know about the event because my mother kept the news away from me," Sajan told media at the Gelora Bung Karno Aquatic Centre.
"I swam my best but unfortunately I missed out... I'm upset because I have been preparing for this event for the last one year without any break."
His mother, who stays in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, said Sajan kept calling her to enquire about family members after learning about the flood.
"I could not contact others (to share the news of making the final)... My uncle from Dubai said everybody is safe," Sajan said.
Sajan, who had competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, insisted he never thought of pulling out of the Asian Games as a result of what was happening outside.
"I prepared for this for a long time and I didn't want to screw it up by leaving," he said.
"My team-mates kept me entertained and focused -- being with them is different from being alone.
After his relatives were found to be safe, Sajan heaved a sigh of relief, though he was quick to add that it did not stand in the way of his performance.
"I had trouble sleeping, thinking about my family.
"I hadn't heard from them because they were cut off from the phone network and not able to contact us.
When I arrived in Jakarta, I knew that the rain was getting worse in Kerala. But it didn't affect me. That's what we train for -- to swim under pressure. If I had thought about it, I would've screwed it up here. I just had to focus on what I had to do."
(With inputs from Agencies).