CHENNAI: THE powers that be have finally decided on the swimmers to represent India at the Rio Olympics. Sajan Prakash and Shivani Kataria have been selected by the Swimming Federation of India to join the 100-strong contingent aboard the Brazil flight.
Questions were raised as to why the more experienced Sandeep Sejwal, who was India’s best swimmer in the run-up to Rio qualification on performance and points, was not given the nod ahead of Sajan. The SFI secretary Kamlesh Nanavati put such doubts to rest. “Sajan has been consistent with his performances this season. Pradeep Kumar (national coach), Wilson Cherian (Railways coach), federation president Digambar Kamat and I discussed this earlier in the day (on Tuesday), and decided to send him. Sandeep’s performance in Hong Kong was not up to the mark. And Virdhawal (Khade) has been unable to train due to job commitments,” he said.
Sandeep had maximum points in 200m breaststroke (822 points) and 100m breaststroke (808), while Sajan had points in three events — 400m freestyle (798), 1500m freestyle (782) and 200m butterfly (785). The fact that Sajan was involved in three got his average score above that of Sandeep, and worked in his favour.
Sandeep, meanwhile, was disappointed, but backed his younger colleague to shine. “I’m a little sad, but the federation’s decision is final. I’ve to accept that. If they think Sajan is good, then so be it. I’m happy for him, and wish him all the best for the future. He’s in the prime of his career, and I guess that put him ahead of me,” said the Railways employee.
As Express had reported on June 20, Virendra Nanavati, FINA swimming committee member and Asian Swimming Federation vice-president, had said the federation would ask for one more quota under tripartite rules. That request was granted and Haryana’s Shivani was selected as the female swimmer.
Sandeep, the 2014 Asian Games bronze winner, added this probably was his last chance of going to the Olympics and he would take a call on his future after the senior nationals. “There is no next time. By the time the Tokyo Olympics comes around, I’ll be 31 or 32, which isn’t a good number. For now, I’ll focus on the senior nationals, and after that, I’ll sit with Nihar (Ameen) sir, and decide whether to continue swimming or switch to something else,” revealed the 27-year-old.
Heading into the Rio final qualification leg, five Indians had made the B cut — Sandeep, Sajan, Supriyo Mondal, Virdhawal, Saurabh Sangvekar. Two slots is a good haul considering that.