Swimmer Srihari looks to better timing for Olympic qualification
Though he bettered his own national records in 50m and 200m backstroke at the World Championships last week, Srihari Nataraj failed to achieve the Olympic qualification ‘B’ mark. But that is exactly what he will be vying for at the 10th AASF Asian Age Group Championships next month in Bengaluru.
With the September 24-October 2 event being held in India for the first time in 20 years, it will be the best opportunity for Indian swimmers aiming for a Tokyo 2020 berth as it is an Olympic qualification event. Promoted as the largest aquatic event in Asia, the nine-day spectacle will have over 1,200 swimmers from 40 countries participating in four different aquatic disciplines—swimming, diving, water polo and artistic swimming.
“This is a great opportunity for Indian swimmers to win medals (at the Asian level) and garner more support for swimming in the country. I will be trying for gold in all my events and make use of the home advantage,” Srihari said.
“At the recent World Championships, I improved my personal best in 50m (25.83) and 200m (2:02.08) backstroke, slashing my own national records and clocked 55.55 in 100m. Though I could not achieve my goal of securing the A Qualification mark for Olympics, I believe there are quite a few opportunities coming up and I am confident of achieving the mark.”
The Indian contingent will also include the likes of Olympians Virdhawal Khade, Sajan Prakash and Shivani Kataria, sprinter Anshul Kothari, national record holder in breaststroke SP Likith, freestyle specialist Khushagra Rawat in open category, while Kenisha Gupta, Kushi Dinesh, Suvana C Baskar, Tanish George Mathew, Sanjay CJ and Riddhima Virendra are India’s best hopes in the junior categories.
Apart from the open class (above 18 years), the two junior age categories will be Group I (15-17 years) and II (14 years and below).
The last time India hosted this event was in 1999. In the previous edition in Uzbekistan in 2017, India won 40 medals in swimming (5 gold, 13 silver and 22 bronze) while in diving they came home with three gold, two silver and three bronze.