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Swimmer Maana Patel sets sight on Asian Games qualification

Tokyo Olympian swimmer Maana Patel has set her sight on the Asian Games qualification.

Swimmer Maana Patel sets sight on Asian Games qualification


Updated: 10 April 2023 10:48 AM GMT

Having realized her dream of representing India at the Olympics, Maana Patel has set her sights on becoming the first Indian woman swimmer in 17 years to compete at the Asian Games later this year.

Shikha Tandon was the last woman swimmer to have represented India at the Asian Games -- in the 2006 Doha edition.

Maana, who was the only woman swimmer representing India at the Tokyo Olympics after gaining a universality quota place, wants to end the 17-year wait for a female swimmer from the country at the continental event scheduled to take place in Hangzhou, China on September 23.

"No woman has competed in Asian Games since 2006. My aim right now is to do well at the Asian Games qualifiers," Maana told PTI.

"I have secured 8th place for the 200m backstroke but I aim to qualify for the sixth position and go in with a faster time." The 23-year-old has already breached the eighth-place qualifying time set by the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) and is looking to shave off a few more seconds to make the sixth-place cut.

SFI has set a time better than the sixth-place finisher of the last Asian Games for selection for the Hangzhou Asian Games. Maana enjoyed a good run at the Senior National Aquatic Championships last year, winning four gold and two bronze medals.

She followed that up with three gold, two silver, and one bronze medal at the National Games.

During the off-season, she underwent twin surgeries in October -- a tonsillectomy and deviated nasal septum surgery.

"During the National Games, I started falling sick, had severe throat pain, had difficulty swallowing food and liquid and I do get these issues now and again so I went to an ENT specialist and found out I had chronic tonsillitis. "I had to get my deviated nasal septum surgery done. So, we decided to do tonsillectomy at the same time," said Maana, who is supported by ENGN.

The nasal surgery was essential as it was affecting Maana's breathing. "The wall separating the nostril was slanting so I had trouble breathing. I would just keep yawning all the time to get more oxygen. I also had an extra bone growth on the side of the wall. We had to trim the bone and correct the wall. "I was on painkillers and antibiotics for a month, even the doctor said I can't have these two procedures together because it will be painful and the recovery will be long but I couldn't afford to be away from the pool for that long."

Competing in her first meet since the surgeries, Maana clinched the silver medal in the 50m and 100m backstroke events at the Singapore National Age Group Championship last month.

A change in her training method and schedule has also benefitted her. "In January, we introduced some new training methods, we were skeptical as to how this training would work for me. It was just a test to see whether we should continue with the training schedule. But it worked out well."

"We are trying on new swim sets, changed by gym schedule so I'm on a completely different land program." Despite it being the season-opening meet, Maana was just 0.4s off her personal best, and she is confident she can go faster in the upcoming competitions. "I wasn't faster in Singapore, but it was 0.4 off my personal best. But I'm certain I can shave that off," said Maana.

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