Karnataka have their task cut out

Depleted squad leaves hosts with plenty to do

Karnataka have their task cut out

Unlike previous years when the State had plenty of outstanding talent, this time they have to be content with just two swimmers who are the best in their disciplines in the country -- Arhatha Magavi and Sneha T.

Karnataka have won every championship at the Junior level for the past decade, but that impeccable record could be under threat this time. However, familiar conditions and a pool that most of the squad members know like the back of their hand should stand them in good stead over the next five days of battle for supremacy in the Junior championship.

Having won the overall trophy comfortably last June in Jaipur, the juniors are keen to retain the title at home. “It will be a tough battle this time. But as hosts, we have the edge and eventually we will come up trumps,” said Karnataka junior swimming coach Jairaj on the eve of the championship.

Having said that, retaining the trophy wouldn’t be as easy as it was in Jaipur. Arhatha, who was expected to spearhead the State challenge, will compete only in two events — 100M butterfly and 200 fly — which will put a lot of pressure on Sneha (50, 100 and 200 freestyle, and 50 and 100 fly), as well as Divya Guruswamy and Pratima Kollali.

The real worrying factor for the hosts is in the boys’ section, where there is a distinct lack of experienced and competent swimmers. The team has been further weakened by the absence of the best swimmer in Jaipur, Gagan AP, who has graduated to the Senior category.

Hopes of medals in the more glamorous sprint events rest mainly with Srinivas MD, Prajwal KS and Shaun D’Souza (Group I boys), and Pranam B (Group II).  In the long-distance freestyle events, Akshay Krishna and Ajay A are expected to be the flag-bearers.

Going by the form book, the State swimmers will face a stiff challenge from Maharashtra swimmers Gowri Desai, Kanchi Desai, Poorva Shetye and Saurab Sangvekar. Also looking to make a mark will be emerging talents such as Tamil Nadu’s Raghavi and Vemba, Gopinath and Rishab of West Bengal.

In water polo, which will be held at the BAC and PM Swim Centre, Jayanagar, defending champions Karnataka girls face a strong challenge from Maharashtra and Kerala. In the boys' section, Kerala and Bengal could pose a big threat to the State's progress. Karnataka boys will take on Bengal in their opening match on Wednesday.

Damini the cynosure

In the 27th Sub-junior me-etwhich will begin on July 12, Karnataka, who were dethroned last year in Goa, will be looking to wrest the overall title back from arch-rivals Maharashtra.

"This time, we are pretty strong. We also have an advantage as hosts. I am sure we can regain the title here,” said Karnataka Sub-junior coach MS Bushan Kumar. Karnataka's hope of bringing home the crown depends largely on the performances of Damini K Gowda and Malavika V. Damini, who will be competing in the Group III girls' category, had won five gold medals in Goa last year.

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