Thiruvananthapuram: Swimming is the lifeblood of Manikkal, a small village located about 15 kilometres away from the capital city.
It is one of the grama panchayats in Kerala with the highest number of people working in the government sector. There are around 2,000 state and central government employees in Manikkal, and a majority of them landed jobs under sports quota. Expertise in swimming and other water sports has also helped students in the village obtain grace marks and get admission to higher education courses.
They are grateful to the Dolphin Club at Pirappancode, one of the three finalists for the Manorama Sports Club Award 2019, Kerala’s biggest sports award instituted by Malayala Manorama in association with Santa Monica Study Abroad Private Ltd.
Pirappancode is known as the cradle of swimming in Kerala. Founded in 1952, Dolphin is one of the first swimming clubs in the state. The 68-year-old club has produced many talented swimmers and has done a lot to popularise aquatic sport in the region. Now there are six swimming academies in Manikkal, and as a result, almost all villagers, from toddlers to adults, know how to swim.
The huge pond sprawling across 1.5 acres at the Pirappancode Sree Krishna Temple under the Travancore Devaswom Board has been a hub of aquatic activities for long. It is where hundreds of thousands of villagers learned the basics of swimming.
Manikkal is hugely indebted to N Parameswaran Nair, who was instrumental in taking the leisure sport to the next level. When he returned home from Madras after completing higher studies, Parameswaran Nair, accompanied by his friend and lawyer Pirappancode Sreedharan Nair, decided to impart scientific training in swimming to the villagers which he learned during his college days. The Dophic Club, which had a humble beginning in 1952 as a community service, now functions from a three-storey building which was constructed with the money donated by its alumni.
The pool is well maintained and caters to everyone over the age of 5. There are six lanes that are 50 metres in length. Training in water polo is also being provided.
Currently, the Dolphin Club trains around 300 people in different techniques of swimming from basic to advanced level. The trainees only have to pay a nominal registration fee as the coaching classes are being offered free of cost.
There are two dozen swimming coaches graduated from the National Institute of Sports (NIS) who conduct classes at the club. Some of them have the experience of training national-level swimmers.
Former champion swimmers and retired government employees, who rose through the ranks of Dolphin, also make it a point to pass on their knowledge and skills to the next generation.
The club's current president is N Kesavan Nair while G Babu is the secretary. The other office-bearers are G Sreekumar and S Sasidharan Nair.