Swimming: Dubai's rising star Tanish sets his sights on Tokyo Olympics
Even a place in the Sports Authority of India's ambitious project - the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) - has failed to quench the thirst of Tanish George Mathew, the talented young swimmer from Dubai's Indian High School.
It was only last month that the 16-year-old swimmer was picked by the Government of India for TOPS, a scheme launched to identity talented young athletes and make them medal prospects for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics by providing them with top-notch training facilities.
But Tanish, who moved to Dubai with his parents in 2014, hasn't given up hope yet on representing India at next year's Tokyo Olympics.
"My current goal is to improve my time for Tokyo Olympics. There is time till next June to qualify for the Olympics," Tanish, who specialises in the 200m butterfly, told Khaleej Times.
"My best timing is 202.71 in 200m butterfly and the qualifying time is 159.97. My coach thinks that I can do it. It's not a very big margin."
Tanish then revealed the areas he needed to work on to have a shot at qualifying for marquee events.
"I need to improve my speed and endurance because 200m butterfly is one of the hardest swimming races. It consumes all your energy because butterfly is the hardest stroke, so you need lot of endurance and strength," said Tanish who grew up idolising Michael Phelps and South African star Chad le Clos who famously beat the American icon for the 200m butterfly gold at the 2012 London Olympics.
"Michael Phelps is everyone's idol. So I look up to him and Chad le Clos also. I met him (Le Clos) once in Dubai. I knew I had to continue swimming after meeting him. I got more motivated to train harder. It was after that I started going for national and international events!"
The silver medallist at the 2019 Rio de Janeiro Fina-ISF World School Championship, Tanish says having the opportunity to train in Dubai's world-class facilities has been a massive advantage.
"The facilities are much better here in Dubai than India. In India, many people want to swim, but you know, only a select number of people can be at a pool at a time. But over here, we have Olympic-size pools, top-class gyms and cardio facilities. Everything here is top class," said Tanish.
"So, it has given me a great advantage. When my coach Pradeep Kumar started his club here and he was the international coach, where he was training us, it was really high class facility. So I have got the best facilities and best training."
And the man who trains Tanish in Dubai, Pradeep Kumar, predicts a bright future for his pupil. "I have been training him for the past four years and he is one of the most promising and talented swimmers that I have right now," Kumar said.
"His progress has been very consistent. He is also among the most hard-working swimmers. Any coach will be really happy to train him because you know, you don't have to pressurise him, just give the instructions and put him into the right things and he follows."
But Kumar admitted the 2024 Olympics would be a more realistic target for Tanish.
"It's not going to be easy to predict at the moment whether he can qualify for Tokyo. I think he has a better chance at the 2024 and 2028 Games," he said,
"He will be at the right age. He will be the most promising Indian swimmer at the 2024 Games, there is no doubt about it."