For a country that has relied on wildcards for sending its swimmers to the Olympics, four direct entries for the Beijing Games can be considered a significant achievement. Led by Kolhapur's Virdhawal Khade, the Indian quartet qualified for the Games with a 'B' qualification mark in their respective events. And though none of them are expected to be medal contenders, a far improved showing by an Indian in the pool is a definite possibility.
The four-member contingent will also be the biggest since the 13-member squad in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. But that was in the pre-qualification era and national coach Pradeep Kumar rates the achievement of the current lot a 'pioneering step'. "We don't have a swimming history to take inspiration from. These four swimmers are creating a place for themselves and the next generation will have a platform to take off from," he added.
Khade was the first to make the grade for Beijing when he swam within the 200m freestyle qualifying mark in the 2007 World Championship in Melbourne as a 15-year-old. He was followed by Ankur Poseria (100m butterfly), Sandeep Sejwal (100m and 200m breaststroke) and Rehan Poncha (200m backstroke).
However, the best timings of all the four swimmers are nowhere near that of the top performers in their respective categories.