Confident Poncha targets big meets of the season

Confident Poncha targets big meets of the season

Bangalorean back after training stint in United States

Confident Poncha targets big meets of the season

Poncha, who was the best swimmer at the last three nationals, will have to sacrifice the 200 and 400 individual medley and 200 butterfly events at the August 23-29 Jaipur meet to realise his dream of receiving the Arjuna Award from President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 29.

“I am really excited to receive the Arjuna Award. It’s something special to get the award in front of my parents and (coach) Pradeep sir. I am really looking forward to it,” said an excited Poncha, who is back in Bangalore after a three-month long training stint in the United States.

But the Delhi trip might put pressure on Poncha as the 24-year-old will get only two events — 200M backstroke and 200 freestyle — to qualify for the CWG. “I will be looking to qualify in the 200M backstroke which is on the first day. On the second day, I have 200 free while it will be a rest day for me the next day. So my priority is to qualify in 200 backstroke so that I can automatically get entry into other events where I am the national champion,” Poncha said on Friday at a function to announce his association with Jus Booster Juice.

The task might be enormous but Poncha said he was confident of finishing among the top five in his favourite 200 butterfly. “CWG is a big meet and one need to be at his best. If I can stay fit, I can clock between 1:58.00 to 1:56.00 in 200 fly which I hope will help me to finish inside five,” said Poncha, who holds the National record in 200 backstroke, 200, 400 individual medley, 200 fly and 400 freestyle events.

The Karnataka swimmer felt the return of tailor-made suits have made it difficult for swimmers to meet the qualifying timings which were set by swimmers using hi-tech bodysuits. “I feel hi-tech suits definitely help especially in the first part of the race. It’s much easier to get into top-gear with bodysuits. Now with traditional swim wear you have to work harder. That’s why swimmers are finding it difficult to reach the qualifying time,” he said.

Poncha said his training stint under former assistant coach of the American men’s team David Salo at the University of Southern California had benefitted him a lot. “I went through a totally different type of training which was really good,” said Poncha. Elaborating on the experience, Poncha said: “I did a lot of high intense work and power training. Swimming as fast as you can and as long as you can. It’s not the mileage but the whole training is focused on speed.”

Terming his training period with world’s top swimmers — Kosuke Kitajima (Japan), Thiago Pereira (Brazil) and Rebecca Soni (America) — an amazing experience, Poncha said he will return to US in September for another stint before the CWG. “It was really a fantastic experience. I learned a lot from watching and swimming with them,” said Poncha.

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