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On World Water Day, we look at Indian swimmers who might qualify for Tokyo Olympics

We look at the Indian swimmers aiming to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after meeting B qualification standards.

Indian swimmers Srihari Nataraj, Sajan Prakash and Kushagra Rawat (Source: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News)

Indian swimmers Srihari Nataraj, Sajan Prakash and Kushagra Rawat (Source: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News)


The Bridge Desk

Published: 22 March 2021 6:09 AM GMT

Swimming was one of the sports that was hit worst owing to the coronavirus 2020 pandemic. Unlike many other sports Indian swimmers were probably the last to resume their training as they prepare themselves to reach Olympics A qualification standards.

No Indian has ever made the 'A' qualification standard, which offers a confirmed berth for the Olympics. For the Tokyo Games, six swimmers have achieved the second-level Olympic qualifying mark or the B standard, which only keeps them in the reckoning in case the total quota of swimmers is not reached by the end of the qualification period.

The six Indian swimmers, who have cleared the B standards are:

Srihari Natraj: 100m backstroke - 54.69,

Kushagra Rawat: 400m freestyle 3:52.75, 800m freestyle, 8:07.99, 1500m freestyle, 15:25.22.

Sajan Prakash: 200m butterfly, 1:58.45.

Advait Page: 800m freestyle, 8:00.76.

Aryan Makhija: 800m freestyle, 8:07.80.

Virdhawal Khade: 50m freestyle, 22.44s.

Nataraj had made the B cut for the Olympics with a national record of 54.69s in the 100m backstroke event at the FINA World Junior Championships in Budapest, Hungary in 2019. Nataraj is 0.84 seconds away from becoming the first Indian to make it to the Olympics with an 'A' qualifying time.

Virdhawal Khade (Source: DNA India)

Kushagra Rawat, in his latest outing, finished with a bronze medal at the New South Wales Open Swimming Championship to achieve the 'B' standard of Olympic qualification in his pet event, the 400m, clocking 3:52.75. The Olympic 'A' standard is still 6-plus seconds away at 3:46.

Kerala's Sajan Prakash had achieved 'B' qualification mark in 200m butterfly at the 10th Asian Age Group championship which occurred at the Dravid-Padukone Centre last year. It was one of the qualifying events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Advait Page attained the B-qualification standard for Tokyo 2020 at the Singapore National Swimming Championships in 2019. The B-timing for men's 800m freestyle for Tokyo Olympics is 8.08.54, while the A-qualification is 7.54.31.

Aryan Makhija is a student of Auburn University in Alabama, United States, where his swimming exploits earned him a sports scholarship. He is eyeing an A qualification standard.

Virdhawal Khade clocked 22.44 seconds for men's 50 metres freestyle, achieving the B qualification mark (22.64) in the 2019 qualifying cycle. In September, Khade was among the three elite swimmers chosen by SAI for a short training stint in Dubai while pools remained shut in India. He opted out.

The Swimming Federation of India (SFI) hopes to host an International Swimming Federation (FINA)-accredited competition in June to provide exposure to top Indian swimmers. Due to strict covid protocols, it is becoming increasingly difficult to compete in competitions outside the country either on the Asian or European circuit. Several countries like Singapore or Thailand aren't allowing foreigners to compete in the events without having going through the mandatory quarantine rules due to the pandemic. If the proposed national competition in June gets the world governing body's sanction, it would enable the country's elite swimmers an opportunity to compete in an Olympic qualification competition on home soil

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