BENGALURU: India’s best backstroke swimmer, Srihari Nataraj is a busy man these days. After landing in Bengaluru, from the Worlds, on Tuesday at 1:30 am, the 18-year-old was ready to compete in the senior state aquatic championships six hours later. He slept for three hours only to be on time for the state event. He broke the state record in the 200m breaststroke the first day, and another two in the next couple of days.
There is not much time to rest for the Bengaluru boy, who has three big events including the Junior Worlds (starting August 20 in Budapest), senior nationals (August 31, Bhopal) and the Asian Age Group Championship (September 24, Bengaluru) coming up. He is not perturbed with the tight schedule as these competitions are Olympic qualifying tournaments. Though he wants to attain Olympic qualification A timings (53.85 in 100m and 1:57.50 in 200m backstroke) to book Tokyo tickets in any of the three, Nataraj believes home advantage will help him in the top Asia event.
“Asian Age is going to be my main target as it is in Bengaluru, my hometown. I am accustomed to the weather in the city, I will know the conditions better. I will get to stay at home and that is going to be a big advantage. When you go abroad, you need to acclimatize.
You need time to adjust to various things like food. When you have a particular type of food every single day of your life while training, and have the same during the tournament (in Bengaluru), your body will be able to perform better compared to away tournaments, where the food is not exactly the same,” Natraj told reporters during the launch of Asian Age Group event on Friday.
Agreed, the conditions might suit his body, but the athlete has to hit top gear in order to attain A qualification, which in his words, ‘is possible’. His personal best reads 55.49 and 2:02.08 in 100m and 200m backstroke respectively, meaning he has to shave off around 1.6 and 5 seconds, which is a tough ask.
The problem for Nataraj has been his turns off the wall after 50m in both the 100m and 200m on which he is working closely. He is quite slow on this aspect and considers it to be his ‘weak point’. “That is the weak point. So what happens is that I run out of oxygen when I am on my back while doing the flip under water. So I am working on my lung capacity.
I am working to get some better push off the wall, get better glide, so that I can improve my timings in both the events. In the 200m, I need to ensure that I go fast in the first 100m as well. I feel that I pull back a lot. In the 100m, if I get faster in the first 50, I will end up with a good timing. That is how it works and I am working on that bit,” said Nataraj.