Crossing Seas: Two Olympic Trainees at Northeastern


The desire to become an Olympic athlete burns brightly in many young hopefuls like their own personal Olympic flame. It is this drive that is seen in athletes just like nineteen  19-year- old Neil Contractor and sixteen 16-year- old Maana Patel who traveled from across the globe to train for their chance to compete in the Olympic Games. This year, Contractor  Neil and Patel Maana are training with coach Kamil Kulczycki of Sharks Swim Club in high hopes of competing in the Rio, Brazil  2016 Olympic games. The two began their long journey in India and are now training right here in NEIU’s P.E. Complex pool.

Every four years the elite are given a chance to showcase their skillsand no we aren’t talking about the presidential race. Although, the trials contain just as much cut throat competition as any election to date,  training for the Olympics is a grueling process.

The Olympics  are known as a time of peace and global unity.  A rule of key importance has always been the claim that during the Olympics all participants gather in the spirit of true sportsmanship.  That idea  carries on today and allows the event to remain one of the most anticipated events for athletes around the world..

Contractor has been swimming for eight years now. As a kid he says he loved and enjoyed being in the water back home, in India. With the burning hot summer heat it’s no wonder the pool was a favorite activity.

Still, Contractor, like many kids, did a variety of activities in his youth. It wasn’t until almost coming in last place at an intense local swim-meet that he became inspired to continue his training and do better in this area. Kamil explained to us how his co-coach was actually the one to discover Contractor while abroad.

The pool Contractor had been training at was across from where Kulczycki was attending classes. The two made a connection and with Kulczycki’s help Contractor’s swim times dropped significantly at the next meet. It was through Contractor’s parents, who were family friends of teammate Maana Patel,  Kulczycki then began to coach Maana as well.

Patel fondly recalls the unusual and funny start to her swim career, telling us how it was through her mother’s concern over her lack of appetite that started it all. Her mom sent her to a summer camp where she would swim every day for forty five minutes, returning home she would tell her mom “mama I’m hungry, I need food,” and thus her swimming career was born.

That was six years ago, and today Patel is the fastest female swimmer in India’s history. Despite this, Patel has not become complacent in her training. Both she and Contractor jumped at the chance to travel to America in order to further their swimming careers.

The two have a rigorous day of training beginning at 8:30 a.m. and going until 11 a.m. and that’s just their morning workout. However, when talking about their Coaches their answers are nothing short of heartwarming.

“Oh my God! They’re amazing,” gushed Patel. “They’re just too good. Trust me I’m not missing home at all.”

While the job of a Coach is to push their athletes, it is also to nurture and help them grow. Swimming is a fantastic method for cardio-respiratory fitness. According to Contractor and Patel, swimming is also a fantastic method for creating heart-to-heart relationships with inspiring coaches. When asked about the transition from India to America, Contractor tells us how it all happened so fast and that it’s “all thanks to Coach Kamil and Coach Komal… .That was God’s blessing for us.”

The dynamic between the three is incredible.

In fact, it allows them to train harder. So how do they manage it all? And what about school?

In India the education systems work a bit differently, Patel and Contractor aren’t required to be in school on a daily basis. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t study as hard as they train. Both have brought textbooks and work hand in hand with their respective schools to maintain their education.

It’s amazing to see the way the two push themselves both physically and mentally. It’s as if they never get tired. So how do they keep pushing even past the fatigue? A protein enriched diet and inspiration of course! Patel’s inspiration is her mother, with whom she is very close, always reminds her that, “If you’re doing anything, give your hundred percent in that.” For Contractor it is the goals on his wall which greet him every day when he wakes up.

“Even ( when) I don’t know how I function,half of the body is sore and tired, you just need to wake up and do what you need to do,” said Contractor

With all of the hard work put in day in and day out, all of the motivation and support these two incredible athletes have, and all of the progress they’re making, it seems hard to believe that Patel and Contractor won’t qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio this summer. We look forward to seeing where their journey takes them next!