24 September 2020 06:39
Google's latest doodle honours Arati Saha, a pioneering long-distance swimmer and Olympian from India, on her 80th birth anniversary. She became the first Asian woman to cross the English Channel, swimming 42 miles from Cape Gris Nez, France to Sandgate, England on September 29, 1959. Saha said she was inspired by Indian swimmer Mihir Sen. Arati Saha was born in Kolkata and was one of the three children in the Bengali family. Her incredible athletic gift appeared early in her life as she won her first gold medal at the age of five. By 11 years old, Saha became known as a swimming prodigy.
Today's Google doodle was designed by fellow Kolkata native Lavanya Naidu. The artist hopes her drawing would inspire people to 'dream big, no matter where you come from.' Arati Saha received multiple honours in her early career, including setting a national record in 1949 and breaking Dolly Nazir's record in a 1951 West Bengal state meet. Nazir and Saha represented India together at the 1952 Olympics and were two of the four women participants. READ | Doodle For Google Won By Fifth Grader From Texas, Netizens Say "Too Adorable Not To Share" Arati Saha's remarkable success story After the Olympics, Saha consistently practised the breaststroke her best category. The athlete also started participating in long-distance swim competition in the Ganges. She congratulated Bangladeshi swimmer Brojen Das after winning the title of first Asian swimmer to cross the English Channel in 1952. Das recommended Arati Saha to the Butlin International Cross Channel Swimming Race organizers for the 1953 event. Despite immense popularity and wide support, Saha struggled to raise funds for travelling to England until the then Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, offered her support. Arati Saha practised rigorously for six years before travelling to England for the competition on 24 July 1959. However, her first event was filled with mishaps as her pilot boat was almost an hour late and she missed favourable conditions. Saha came within five miles of the English coast but had to return for her own safety. READ | Google Doodle Reminds People To Wear Masks As COVID-19 Cases Cross 5 Million In India Later in September, Arati Saha made her second attempt at crossing the English Channel. She swam for an astonishing 16 hours and 20 minutes, covering 42 miles. Saha hoisted the flag of India upon reaching English shores,=. After her historic victory, she married her long-time manager, Dr Arun Gupta, in the same year. In 1960, she was awarded Padma Shri, one of India's highest civilian honours. The Department of Posts created a postage stamp to honour Saha in 1999. Google doodle artist Lavanya Naidu was keen on collecting stamps as a kid in the '90s and recalls her excitement at seeing her hometown hero on a stamp. Arati Saha had one daughter, Archana, and worked for the railways through her adult life. She passed away on August 4, 1994. READ | 'Thank You Coronavirus Helpers': Google Doodle Thanks Frontline Workers Amid Pandemic READ | Man Swims With Dolphin Around Him In Sea, Video Amazes Netizens