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From Dighali Pukhuri to Catalina; A 35 year long journey: Elvis Ali Hazarika on Facebook Live, Olympia

Special Report of Olympia

✍️ Biswajit Barman

Swimming Catalina Channel successfully gave a boost to my courage and confidence. It also gave birth to a desire of swimming all the 7 channels of the world. A plan was in motion to swim North Channel in July 2020.

‘There is no shortage of talents in Assam. The land is full of people with their diverse talents. At present, there are a healthy number of quality swimming coaches in Assam. Coaches like Rajib Dey, including others, are doing impressive work in the field of swimming. Many from the younger generation of Assam are taking formal training in swimming in New Delhi. One day, many of them will bring accolades to Assam.’
-Elvis Ali Hazarika,
An International Swimmer from Assam., the digital platform of Olympia (the only sports magazine of Assam) has been providing the players, coaches, from Assam a platform to interact and share their experiences with their fans, sports enthusiasts, and young talents, amidst the ongoing lockdown.

In a Facebook Live interaction from the official page of, Elvis shared his success stories with the fans as well as gave a few tips to the young swimmers to sharpen their skills in the sport.

Elvis started swimming in Dighali Pukhuri, Guwahati, when he was only two and a half years old. In his journey from Dighali Pukhuri to Catalina, Elvis was able to achieve accolades and appreciations from people around the world. He is still far away from abandoning his journey of swimming. National Award at the age of three was just the beginning for him. Elvis won the title of National Champion for 10 consecutive years. In this context, during the Facebook Live, Elvis added, ‘I was practicing with senior swimmers like Mithu Baruah in Dighali Pukhuri. Whenever the coach jumped in the pool with me in his lap, I was very frightened. From there, I started swimming and have been doing the same for the next 35 years. From Sub-Junior to Junior level that too for a period of 10 years, I was a National Champion. In between that, I did participate in various International Tournaments. Recently, I have started swimming Channels. For doing that, I was fortunate to have tips and helps from the likes of Padma Shri Bula Choudhury, Meenakshi Pahuja etc. Swimming Catalina Channel successfully gave a boost to my courage and confidence. It also gave birth to a desire of swimming all the 7 channels of the world. A plan was in motion to swim North Channel in July 2020. But due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the plan is now postponed to next year. With the blessings of Allah and Maa Kamakhya, I am hopeful that I will make this land and its people proud once again.’

Elvis represented India in 1991 Asia Pacific Swimming Championship and was the first Indian who won a Gold Medal in that competition. It was one of the memorable moments for him and the mere recollection of that moment makes him feel proud. There are many such tournaments which depict some of the best success stories of his career.

Elvis revealed many interesting events in front of the fans from his career during the interaction. He, in a series of questions from the fans, revealed that he has followed quite a few people as role models in his career. Among them, from India, there were Khajan Singh and Sebastian Xavier, Matt Biondi from America, Alexander Popov from Russia etc. In the context of swimming in pool, in river and in sea, he said that the experience a swimmer gets in all the three surfaces is quite different. Those who used to swim channels, normally they do not take part in competitive swimming championships. There are very few swimmers who are doing channel swimming besides competitive swimming. Elvis also added that he and Meenakshi Pahuja came to channel swimming later; from competitive swimming. Experience of swimming in river is also different. As per his experience, the current in Brahmaputra river is much stronger than that of river Ganga. Swimming in sea also gives a unique experience. Usually practice sessions for channel swimming takes place in broad daylight but the actual channel swimming starts around 11pm in the night, that experience, according to Elvis is quite scary.

Elvis likes to play cricket, badminton, basketball etc besides swimming and among them basketball is his second favorite after swimming.

While replying to a question from a fan, Elvis said that his parents, wife & kids are the main source of motivation to proceed in his life as a long distance swimmer. He also remembered that there was a time when his parents had to face a lot of struggle to arrange necessary swimming costume for him, especially in the beginning of his swimming career. He managed to grab the gold medal many a time despite using ordinary quality costume, broke many records while making new ones.

Elvis, a swimmer who always preferred to run after time instead of medals, advised the swimmers from the young generation to set their aim before going into the water. One should push himself beyond his limit, never backs down from facing hard times in water. For Elvis, only that level of dedication can bring medals or make/break records. He gave the same set of advice to Shivangi Sharma, the swimming sensation of Khelo India Youth Games. Elvis has been in touch with Shivangi from her childhood. Even during that time, he was certain that she would go very far in swimming.

The international swimmer, when asked about being the swimming coach of Assam in the future, replied that no such thought has crossed his mid in recent times mainly due to the strong presence of politics in the sports community. He provided coaching to a few trainees for a period of almost two years but had to stop that under some unavoidable circumstances. His experiences as a coach were quite bitter. And for that reason he clearly said that there is no intention of him being a coach in the future.

Elvis, an Assamese with an extraordinary love and affection for the land and the people of Assam always carries a ‘Gamusa’ to the big events of his life, whether it is swimming the English Channel or Catalina Channel, he likes to be photographed with a ‘Gamusa’ after the success.

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