BENGALURU: India's elite swimmers are gradually moving in the right direction, competing at a higher level and coming up with improved performances. After Sajan Prakash and Srihari Nataraj managed to make the A cut for the Tokyo Olympics, it was important for them to show that it was not a flash in the pan. The duo managed to do that, giving a fair account of themselves, achieving three best Indian performances each at the FINA short course World Championships in the United Arab Emirates recently.
If Sajan recorded the feat in the 100m butterfly (51.61), 200m butterfly (1:52.10) and 200m freestyle (1:46.61), Srihari did so in 50m backstroke (24.40), 100m backstroke (52.81) and 100m freestyle (48.65). Kushagra Rawat delivered in the 400m freestyle, clocking 3:49.04 as well. Swimming Federation of India secretary general Monal Chokshi is pleased with the outcome and considers it to be a confidence booster ahead of the long-course Worlds next May in Japan.
“Firstly, these timings (at UAE) are the best Indian performance. And yes, we are very happy with the performances. They were consistent in their display. I am sure that they will do very well at the long course World Championship in May. More importantly, it is a huge confidence booster going for the Worlds. Also, Ridhima Veerendra Kumar at 14 years, she did well and was not intimidated by the scale of the competition,” Chokshi told The New Indian Express.
Though none of the swimmers managed to reach the finals in any of their respective events, improved timings at an international meet is a sign of progress. The trio did splendidly well, but among all, Srihari’s progress in freestyle stands out. The Bengaluru swimmer, a backstroke specialist, has been putting in some serious effort after the last Olympics to deliver in freestyle as well. He did well in the senior nationals last month too, and with it being his first short course worlds, Srihari is quite happy with his timings in all events.
“I always plan to come up with improved timings and also break records if possible. It is nice to do that over here without a taper or a shave. I had come here with a training load and continued with that so considering these things, it is definitely a good meet for me, and it went according to plan. Also, this is my first international meet after Tokyo so I am happy with my timings,” he said.
What makes these achievements in the UAE even more significant is the swimmer trained for the short course worlds only after the senior nationals, which concluded late October. It means that the swimmer only had over a month or so of training for the short course.