Sajan and Srihari have created historical past, however the uphill climb for Indian swimming has solely simply begun
Last month, Indian swimming witnessed historical past being made when not one, however two swimmers went below the A-mark Olympic Qualification Time to safe berths for Tokyo 2020.
In a span of 24 hours in Rome, first Sajan Prakash in 200m butterfly after which Srihari Nataraj in 100m backstroke got here up with record-breaking efforts to turn out to be the primary two Indian swimmers ever to make the A-cut. That they’d to deal with a number of pandemic-triggered lockdowns, harm breaks and private setbacks made the feat extra noteworthy.
But to merely bask within the glory of qualification is to overlook the forest for the bushes. As the duo already is aware of, and can expertise first-hand in Tokyo, Olympic requirements are moving targets. A stellar displaying can be required to only get out of the heats and attain the semifinals, one thing no Indian swimmer has ever executed.
Sajan’s 1:56.38s (A-mark: 1:56:48s) would have positioned him within the prime eight 4 years in the past at Rio 2016, however this time round, all it earned him was the best to be in Tokyo. Similarly, Srihari’s 53.77s (A-mark: 53.85s) would have earned him a semifinal spot in Rio.
A medal is thus a distant dream. In 2016, Tamas Kenderesi’s bronze in 200m butterfly got here in 1:53.62s — virtually three seconds quicker than Sajan’s greatest — and David Plummer’s bronze in 100m backstroke was earned in 52.40s, greater than a second faster than Srihari’s A-mark.
The purpose will thus be to make the semifinals, one thing 20-year-old Srihari is aiming for on his debut. With his greatest years forward of him, the teenager is predicted to deal with this as a part of his preparations to excel at Paris 2024.
But for 27-year-old Sajan, this can be his final Olympic sojourn at his prime, and he’ll wish to considerably enhance on his Twenty eighth-place end out of 29 swimmers at Rio, after having entered by way of the universality quota.
Maana Patel, the 21-year-old National report holder throughout 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke occasions, will hope for a very good present too, making full use of her universality quota place as she, like Srihari, units sights on Paris.