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"Want to replicate my golden run at Khelo India" — star swimmer Srihari Nataraj looks to make waves

Indian swimming sensation Srihari Nataraj is ready to make a splash at Bangalore for the Khelo India University Games and is keen to repeat his heroics from the 2019 Youth Games.

Srihari Nataraj swimmer khelo india university games

Srihari Nataraj will be one to watch out for at the upcoming Khelo India University Games 2022 (Source: Instagram/@srihari33)


Sohinee Basu

Published: 23 April 2022 7:22 AM GMT

In the rare instance Srihari Nataraj is not found making waves at a pool, he'll probably be found holed up comfortably with his favourite piece of documentary playing or simply listening to music, having given up "pretty much everything" else and dedicated his life to swimming.

Set to grab a lot of eyeballs at the upcoming Khelo India University Games, Srihari Nataraj settled in for a chat with The Bridge on a summery April morning, talking about everything under the sun from swimming to movies and things to tick off the bucket list, ahead of the Olympian's maiden appearance at the University Games.

For the 21-year-old Bangalore boy, Khelo India has always held a special place in his heart and this year, it'll be all the more remarkable now because he has been chosen to take the Games oath on behalf of all the athletes.

"It'll be the first time I'll be swimming in front of a home crowd like this. This is not going to be a typical Khelo India for me compared to the last three editions. I'm swimming in a couple of different events this time," he mentioned, with a twinkle in his eyes.

Visibly excited at the opportunity of racing at home, Srihari continued, "I'm not approaching it the same way as I did for the previous editions. I'm three weeks away from an international meet so this is just going to be like a training meet for me, I'm going to do workouts in the morning and racing in the evening," the star swimmer mentioned, having been a wunderkind himself at the 2019 Khelo India Youth Games himself, winning 7 golds from the 7 events he participated in.

Fresh off a good run at the French Elite Open Swimming Championships earlier this month where Nataraj topped the B final, clocking 55.28s to win the men's 100m backstroke event, Srihari has his eyes trained on the Khelo India University Games now that will begin from April 24th and run till May 3rd in the Garden City, where he will hope to replicate the golden heroics of 2019.

Floating towards a golden dream

Srihari Nataraj (Source: Facebook/Srihari Nataraj)

Splashing around a pool has always been right up there on Srihari's favourite to-do activities and transitioning into India's top swimming sensations from that, has been a surreal journey so far. But for Srihari, this journey has only started and 2022 itself has a lot packed in with the Commonwealth and Asian Games already lined up for the swimmer to make new ripples in.

Having tasted the thrill of winning medals at an international level and having also participated at the Tokyo Olympics after achieving an 'A' cut in the time trials to book his berth for the Olympics, the joy of competing at home adds a different emotion and the Khelo India University Games will act as one such occasion for him too.

"I'm swimming in 4 individual events and 3 relays," Nataraj informed.

"In 2019 Pune, I got 7 for 7 golds, so that'll be nice to replicate," he says, with a smile sheepishly playing on his face.

Quickly he adds, "Unfortunately, a couple of events are new, like the 50m breaststroke which I've never raced in at a national level," he mentions, his eyes widening.

"It's a completely new thing for me. Usually, I'm confident but this is just not my event at all, there are some great breaststrokers who will compete in this meet. But that said, I'm always up for a good challenge, so let's see," he mentions, reassuring himself too.

For Srihari, swimming may be his daily bread and butter but he would also not be complaining if you put him out of the water and place him on a dusty tennis court or a lush green football field, eager to show off his skills.

A ready and steady fan of all things pop culture, Srihari Nataraj will easily be one to watch out for at the Khelo India University Games where he intends for a golden sequel, guided by a personalised Rocky Balboa quote to steer him towards success: One stroke at a time, one swim at a time, one meet at a time.

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