Swimmers look to set pool ablaze

India’s quest for a gold rush at the 12th South Asian Games will begin on Saturday when the swimming competition kicks off with a whopping 38 gold medals on offer.

Although India are no superpowers in this discipline, they still call the shots by a huge margin in this regional meet and they would be clear-cut favourites to annex as many gold as possible with almost all swimmers looking for a bright start to the season.

Be it the freestyle, butterfly, breast stroke or backstroke, they have ace swimmers leading their charge and with some sort of competition set to come only from Sri Lanka, there isn’t much challenge standing in their way.

Most of the focus will be on Veerdhawal Khade and Sandeep Sejwal as well as teenage sensation Maana Patel. The trio, who enjoyed a superb outing at the National Championships in Rajkot last October, will not only be looking for gold but will try to enhance their reputation.

Khade, who won the best swimmer award at the Nationals with three gold and two meet records, would be competing in the 50M and 100M freestyle events as well the butterfly sprints. Sejwal will start overwhelming favourite is his pet discipline — the breast stroke.

The Delhiite has made this event his own, claiming a bronze medal in 50M breast stroke event at the Asian Games in Incheon. Not many in the country have been able to dispose Sejwal and there aren’t any from the other seven nations as well.

Maana is another swimmer who will be watched keenly. Over the last three years, the Gujarat swimmer has been making big waves at the national meets, smashing one record after another and she would be eyeing the same as she takes mark for the backstroke events.

Sajjan Prakash and Saurabh Sangvekar are the favourites in the men’s freestyle distance events while Malavika V will be the one to watch out for in the corresponding women’s events. Madhu PS, Aravind M, Shivani Kataria, Damini K Gowda and Shraddha Sudhir are the others in the race for gold.

“We start favourites in most of the events,” said a confident Indian coach Pradeep Kumar. “Our competition should come from Sri Lanka but most of our swimmers would be eyeing a perfect start to the season.”

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