Shadow of anxiety looms over Indian swimmers

Shadow of anxiety looms over Indian swimmers

Sandeep Sejwal, competing in breaststroke events, has an enormous task on hand in the upcoming Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

With the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games fast approaching, the swimmers had the final opportunity in Jaipur to convince that they will not just be a pale presence in the prestigious events. The qualifying time for Delhi Games was set as the eighth place finish of Melbourne edition of CWG but swimmers even struggled to make the grade with the minimum standard.

The show was so poor that none of the national records were disturbed in the men’s section in the five-day meet. Though, Richa Mishra became the lone female swimmer to pocket the national record in 200 individual medley, the time wasn’t enough to stake her claim in the CWG. The rest of the eves were too nowhere in the picture as far as timings are concerned for the October 3-14 event.

Many swimmers and coaches blamed hot weather and substandard pool for poor timings in Jaipur, but there has to be no excuses as many top swimmers underwent world class training abroad before the nationals. After making a lot of noise about the qualification, it is now learnt from reliable sources that the Swimming Federation of India is going to include the swimmers who haven’t able to make the cut. SFI secretary Virendra Nanavati refused to confirm the decision, saying that a final call in this regard will be taken by the national selection committee.

Apart from Sandeep Sejwal, who again attained the CWG qualifying mark in the 50M (29.11) and 200M breaststroke (2:17.92), none of the swimmers made the cut here. Sandeep along with Gagan AP (1500 freestyle) and Rohit R Havaldar (200M backstroke) had crossed the CWG mark in the Federation Cup in Delhi last month. Sandeep, who has the best chance of a podium finish, knows the task will be enormous.

“I am looking to clock 1:00.90 in 100 breaststroke and 2:12.00 in 200 breaststroke which will help me to finish among top five. But winning a medal will be tough but not impossible,” said Sandeep. He holds the national record in 100 (1:00.97) and 200 (2:12.02) breaststroke.

If Sandeep can repeat that effort or better it, then the 21-year-old will have every chance of making the top-five. For the record, the Melbourne Games’ gold medal winner timed 1:00.98 in 100 breaststroke and 2:12.23 in 200 breaststroke. However, these times were set four years ago with the help of hi-tech suits. It remains to be seen how the swimmers will fare in the CWG with tailor-made suits.

Among the top swimmers, Rehan Poncha, Virdhawal Khade and Aaron D’Souza were off-colour in Jaipur.

In fact, Poncha, who received four months of training in the US, scraped through to finish inside the medal bracket in the 100 and 200 backstroke and failed to enter the 200 freestyle final.

“There is no reason to worry. I am still under the US training programme and that’s why I didn’t clock the best time. I was also dehydrated because of the hot weather. I am concentrating mainly on butterfly in the CWG and will come up with a better performance there,” said Poncha.

Though Khade and D’Souza won medals, the duo clocked unimpressive timings en route to their titles. “I like to finish in top-five in the 100 freestyle and 100 fly races. I am working hard on my aim. I will get the desired result,” Khade said.

Putting faith on the swimmers, Nanavati hoped that they will peak at the right time.  “The swimmers have arrived only a few days after months of foreign training. People are continuing their training regime that they did abroad. We still have one more month for the CWG and everything will fall in place by that time,” Nanavati said.

Regarding medal prospects, Nanavati said, “Sandeep (Sejwal), Khade (Virdhawal), Aaron (D’Souza) and Rehan (Poncha) are all capable of winning medals at the Games,” he added.

Indian swimmers are yet to win a medal at the CWG. Will the pattern change this time? Only time can tell.

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