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ARATI GUPTA SAHA (1940-1994)

She was the first Asian woman to swim the English Channel. She was born in Calcutta, West Bengal, India. She began swimming at the age of four, and her talent was spotted by Sachin Nag. From 1945 to 1951 she won 22 State competitions and set an all-India record in 1949. In 1952 Indian became the first Asian nation to send women athletes to compete in the Olympics, at Helsinki. Arati, along with Dolly Nazir from Mumbai, represented India in swimming, participating in the women’s 200 metres breaststroke.

Inspired by Mihir Sen, the first Asian and Indian to swim across the English Channel from Dover to Calais on 27 September 1958, Arati decided to try this crossing for herself. On 29 September 1959, just five days short of her nineteenth birthday, she became the first Asian and Indian woman to swim the English Channel. She swam from Cape Gris Nez in France to Sandgate in England, a distance of forty two miles which she covered in 16 hours and 20 minutes. On arrival she hoisted the Indian flag at Sandgate. She was awarded the Padma Shri the following year. She died on 23 August 1994 of jaundice. In 1998, a set of stamps was issued to commemorate her.
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