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Khelo India University Games

Poster boy Srihari Nataraj fastest at Khelo India University Games, 5 more records set in pool

Srihari stopped the clock at 23.23 seconds to set new 50m record at the Khelo India University Games.

Poster boy Srihari Nataraj fastest at Khelo India University Games, 5 more records set in pool

Srihari Nataraj reacts after clinching gold in the 50m Freestyle event


SS Manoj

Updated: 25 April 2022 7:07 PM GMT

Bengaluru: Sriharai Nataraj, the poster boy of swimming in India, emerged fastest in the 50m Freestyle final at the Khelo India University Games when he stopped the clock at 23.23 seconds to set new record at the Jain University Global Campus pool here on Monday.

The Tokyo Olympian and local boy said he made a mistake that forced him to clock below the target he had set for himself but did not disclose what the mistake was.

The old meet record of 23.78s had been set by Mihir Ambre in the previous edition at Bhubaneswar in 2020.

"I was 0.22 seconds off my personal best," said the local boy, who is a final year student of BA Economics at the host university.

The 21-year-old returned home 10 days ago after his foreign exposure trip in Europe. Srihari, who is trying to qualify for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games and 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, competed in French Elite Open Swimming Championships in Limoges during this trip. But he said he would not miss the Games hosted by his university at any cost.

"I badly wanted to compete here. After all, one rarely gets to race at home. I did not want to miss (Khelo India) at any cost," he said.

Having said that, it was clear that he not happy with the timing. "This is just another competition. My focus is to compete in Birmingham and Asiad. In France, I gained valuable experience. After the senior national which was held in October, the French meet was my first major competition," he said.

At the French meet, Srihari clocked 2 minutes 03.27 seconds in the 200m backstroke - which according to the swimmer was a good mark. In 50m freestyle he missed just out the podium and in his pet event – 100m backstroke – he clocked 55.28s, being 10th among 46 rivals. In 100m freestyle, he failed to qualify for the final and was 18th with a time of 50.51s in the heats.

Srihari's next stop is Monaco where he will compete and try to book tickets for both Birmingham and the continental games.

"Such races (the French meets) will help me in achieving the targets of making it to major games," said Srihari.

Srihari had been the star performer of the 2018 Khelo India School Games in New Delhi when went home with seven medals including six gold medals. At the 2022 edition, the prodigy has matured into a record-breaker.

Golden double for Siva

Five more records were set on the opening day of the swimming events. Siva Sridhar in men's 200m medley (2:05.43s, old games record of 2:13.66s by Thirumaran Sethumanickam by Siddhanth Sejwal in 2020) and 100m back stroke (57.38s, OGR of 58.69s by Siddhanth Sejwal in 2020), Shrungi Bandekar in women's 100m breaststroke (1:07.50s, OGR 1:10.42s by Damini Gowda in 2020), Danush Suresh of Anna University in men's breast stroke (2:20.17s, OGR223.41s by SP Likhit in 2020) and Rujuta Khade of Sivaji University in women's 50m freestyle (27.38s, OGR 20.00s by Sadhvi Dhuri in 2020) were the ones who set the new records.

Siva's personal best is 57.60s in 100m back stroke and like his famous teammate Srihari, Siva hopes to represent India in the upcoming Asiad where the entry standard is 55.80s .

"My target in 200m medley is to achieve the Asiad standard of 2:02.09s," Siva said.

The onus on Siva to do something special is huge, particularly because his father recently lost his job after suffering a stroke. Siva trains at Bengaluru Aquatic Complex which supports his coaching while Jain University provides him a scholarship to pursue his MBA. Siva will in action in 50m, 200m backstroke, 200m, 400m medley, 100m butterfly and and 100m breast stroke event in the coming days.

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