Who was Arati Saha and Why is Google honouring her?

Google is celebrating the 80th birthday of an Indian long-distance swimmer and Olympian, Arati Saha. She was born on 24 September, 1940 in Kolkata.

She is an inspiration to all and wins around 22 medals before even completing a decade in her career. 

She became the first Indian Asian woman on 29 September, 1959, to swim across the English Channel. It is a feat considered the swimming equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. She covered 42 miles from Cape Gris Nez, France to Sandgate, England. This route is depicted in today's doodle by Google. She also became the first sportswoman to win a Padma Shri.

She was born in a Bengali family in Kolkata, one of three children. She won her first swimming gold medal when she was five years old, under the tutelage of her mentor Sachin Nag.

She was known as a swimming prodigy when she was just 11 years old. 

Today's doodle was drawn by fellow Kolkata native, artist Lavanya Naidu. She hopes her drawing helps to inspire people everywhere to 'dream big, no matter where you come from.'

She became the youngest member on the first team to represent the newly independent India in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. She made her first attempt to cross the English Channel when she was 18 years old but was unsuccessful. She never gave hope. 

Arati Saha earned several honours in her early career, including an All India record set by her in 1949, in 1951 break Dolly Nazir's all-India record in the West Bengal state meet. In the 1952 Olympics, Nazir and Saha represented India together and was one of the four women participants.

After the Olympics, she practiced the breaststroke consistently which is her best category. She also started participating in a long-distance swim competition in the Ganges. 

The training of Arati Saha was more than rigorous. At the pond in Deshbandhu Park, at one point, she swam for eight straight hours and then went on to double her time. After six years of rigorous training, she travelled to England on 24 July, 1959.

Arati Saha made her second attempt on 29 September, 1959 to cross the English Channel. She covered 42 miles in 16 hours and 20 minutes. After reaching the English shores, she hoisted the flag of India.

She married her manager, Dr. Arun Gupta, in 1959 after the historic victory. In 1960, she was awarded Padma Shri, one of India's highest civilian honours. Also, in 1999, the Department of Posts created a postage stamp in her honour. 

Google Doodle with animated illustration says thank you to coronavirus helpers

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