Thirty-five seconds ahead of the closest competitor, Drexel student Avani Dave splashed through the finish line, taking first place in the “Swim Around the Rock” open water race. The competition took place July 9 on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. “I had no idea that I was the first female skin division winner; I was just happy that I completed it,” Dave said. “But as the results were being announced, I was overjoyed to hear my name as the winner.”
The swim spanned over 3.25 miles, and it wasn’t a direct route. The tides were rough, and constantly changing, making the swim anything but easy.
“As I completed the turn around the island, the currents were so strong that I landed up swimming at the same spot for what felt like years,” Dave stated. “They were surely the strongest waves I have encountered in my swimming career. “
The race began at 7 a.m., and the instant the swimmers jumped in the water they were greeted with teeth-chattering temperatures of 15 degrees Celcius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). The freezing cold water would prove to be too much to bear for most people — but these swimmers were adequately prepared.
The participants needed to be in top shape even to qualify for the event. Dave said that “during the registration process, [they] were requested to submit [their] swimming resumes for selection consideration.” In other words, swimmers couldn’t participate in the competition unless they had previous swimming accolades.
And Dave certainly has a list of accomplishments. The swimmer started her career at the age of four when her mother taught her the mantra “sink or swim” — literally. After learning to swim for survival, she began to take a liking to the sport. So much so that she began to participate in competitions.
At the age of seven, Dave swam from Uran to Gateway India in a 12 kilometer open water swim. As she likes to put it, “It was one of my biggest achievements because I did it at a very young age.”
And the successes just kept rolling in. After being mesmerized by a synchronized swimming event, Dave decided she could use her swimming and dance knowledge to become a synchronized swimmer herself.
Not only did Dave make her mark locally as a synchronizing success, but also internationally when she became the first girl to start the sport and medal in it for India.
All of these experiences prepared her for the “Swim Around the Rock” competition. Last year, Dave’s brother, Drexel student Jaydev Dave, found the Alcatraz swim. Since that point, both brother and sister have tackled the challenging race together.
“You can easily comprehend the difficulty associated with this swim,” Jaydev said. “My recent swim of 1.6 miles took about 36 minutes while this 3.5 mile course took about two hours 10 minutes.”
With an extreme challenge on their plates, both siblings approached training differently.
Avani developed a strict workout regimen that she followed daily. Jaydev, on the other hand was juggling a full time job as well as the pursuit of his doctorate — needless to say, he had a little less practice time available. Nonetheless, Jaydev had a respectable finish for an undoubtedly difficult race.
The siblings said the best part about participating in the race together was the support they had for one and other.
“I am very much proud of [my sister] — especially because I was fighting the same waters and have a first “hand” experience about the challenges of the course,” Jaydev said.
There was certainly no sibling rivalry in this competition — only support and success.