Why India have had zero female swimmers in last 12 years of Commonwealth Games
The upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be the third CWG in a row where India won't be sending any female swimmers. We discover why.
In a third straight Commonwealth Games, there will be no female swimmer from India at the quadrennial event.
India's four available quotas for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games were locked by veteran swimmer Sajan Prakash, Tokyo Olympian Srihari Nataraj, Delhi swimmer Kushagra Rawat and Madhya Pradesh's Advait Page - all of them male.
This translates to the fact that we won't be seeing Tokyo Olympian Maana Patel or youngsters like Kenisha Gupta and Ridhima Veerendra Kumar taking part in the event.
The last time India saw female swimmers of the country participating in the Commonwealth Games was when New Delhi was the host and hence, was privy to getting slots in every sport.
Unsurprisingly then, the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games saw India's contingent consist of 495 athletes while in the last edition - the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, India's contingent had 151 members only.
To break it down simply, it has been 12 years since any Indian female swimmer participated in the Commonwealth Games.
Why are female Indian swimmers missing out?
The Swimming Federation of India (SFI) had secured four quota places for the 2022 CWG and the national body had announced that swimmers who achieve the sixth position time in their respective events from the 2018 Gold Coast CWG would be considered for the quota slots in this edition.
"In the qualification period of one year Srihari, Sajan, Advait and Kushagra have clocked the sixth position time from the previous CWG. That is the cut-off standard SFI had set," SFI Secretary-General Monal Chokshi told PTI.
The Swimming Federation of India had mentioned that they will keep one spot reserved for a female provided they meet the qualification mark set as standard, unless they do so all the four places will go to the other gender, also provided they too meet the qualifying mark in their respective events.
The timings clocked by the Indian swimmers in FINA-recognised tournaments between 1st April 2021 and 20th June 2022 was considered for the selection of the squad which now has Sajan, Srihari, Kushagra and Advait in it.
For example, a male Indian swimmer had to ensure that his timing is either 0.25.73 or lesser to compete in the 50m backstroke event while the women had to ensure that their timing is 0.28.37 or lesser to secure the berth for the 50m backstroke. Srihari Nataraj, who will be representing India in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke events has clocked timings of 0.24.40 in the 50m backstroke to win the spot.
Maana, who went to the Tokyo Olympics, on the other hand, has her personal best from 2016 in the 50m backstroke event at 0.29.19 - which is neither applicable (since 2016) nor eligible because it doesn't meet the qualifying standard of 0.28.37 or less.
In the women's 50m freestyle, Maana has a personal best of 0.27.48 from October 2021 but even that doesn't meet the 0.25.12 qualifying standard for the CWG 2022. Meanwhile, others like Ridhima and Kenisha are still very young and have time to improve their timings soon.
With only a limited number of berths available for Indian swimmers, the competition is anyway tough. Even though Indian swimmers are coming up fast - especially the youngsters like Kenisha and Ridhima, there is still some covering left to do.
From the existing set of rules by the SFI and the current selection policy, Indian female swimmers have to really step up their game to make the cut and represent the country at the Commonwealth Games.