Job is not done yet: Swimmer Srihari Nataraj misses out on elusive medal at 2022 Commonwealth Games
Missing out on matching his personal best at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022, as planned, a feat that would have assured him gold, swimmer Srihari Nataraj's hunt for a CWG medal still continues.
"The job is not done yet," a restrained Srihari Nataraj tells The Bridge, just a few hours after he became the fourth Indian swimmer to enter the finals of a swimming event at the Commonwealth Games.
In the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games as well, Srihari was in the semi-finals but hadn't been able to progress. Four years later, having dropped nearly a second, the Bengaluru lad made the cut, landing in the finals of the 100m men's backstroke event.
No able-bodied Indian swimmer has ever been able to medal in swimming at the Games - the 21-year-old Srihari Nataraj knew the history he had the chance to create - all he had to do was swim, and swim he did, relentless yet calm, slicing through the water, his clean strokes cutting through the water as he sped ahead, coming dangerously close to medalling, clocking 54.31s in the event.
"There is nothing to celebrate yet, I am calm in my mind, I know exactly what I need to do to win a medal. If I match my personal best, I know I can medal," Srihari had foreshadowed before the finals.
"A few things happened during the last 50m stretch of my semi-final. Perhaps it was the fatigue from the morning swim or I was trying too hard. The first 50m was perfectly fine, my turn was also smooth, but somehow a few things that always click, didn't, in the semi-finals. I know I can do better," Srihari had assessed, fairly confident of getting a win.
Yet as he hit the water during the finals, things didn't pan out according to plan, as Nataraj finished 7th with a 54.31s timing, missing out on matching his personal best by 0.54s.
"I will be swimming in Lane 1. I am used to swimming in corners, it will be acting as a small mental advantage for me. There will be less distraction, I can keep calm and swim," Srihari had explained.
"There will be more waves when I am making my return, but even then I will have a slight mental edge because of the corner position," Srihari had conveyed, alerting of the slight disadvantage that also comes with swimming in the corner.
At the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022, the competition was also stark with 18-year-old South African swimming prodigy Pieter Coetze also swimming alongside Srihari, clocking a time of 53.78 that won him gold, which is also a 0.01s more than Srihari's personal best at 53.77s, which will make this loss slightly difficult for Srihari Nataraj to digest, especially knowing that he could have won it.
However, Srihari is still a man on a mission and with this close a shave, he is sure to come back full force for the men's 50m backstroke event, where he is yet to compete.
While the medal in able-bodied swimming at the Commonwealth Games still eludes India, Srihari is hopeful that he can change the fate soon. If not today, definitely tomorrow.