Swimmers ready to break CWG medal jinx

Of the three swimmers caught in the dope trap, two -- women's national champion Richa Mishra and Jyotsna Pansari -- were in the Games squad.  Even as finishing touches are being given to the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Complex, where the warm-up pool is still not operational, the Indian swimmers are practising in the main pool.
In fact, the recently concluded nationals at Jaipur failed to provide pools of international standards, thus affecting the swimmers' performances.

With top teams like Australia, Canada and England dominating the pool in the previous editions, India will need more than hard work to sneak out a medal or a two. Australia so far have racked up 508 medals while it has been 312 for Canada and 286 medals for England.

Swimming Federation of India (SFI) general-secretary Virendra Nanvati, however, is taking heart from the swimmers' recent performances and feels this edition might just be the lucky one for the Indians.  "All our boys and girls have been working very hard and have had international exposure. We hope this time around we will end up with a medal," Nanavati told IANS.

Swimming Commonwealth Games coach Nihar Amin is more realistic in his assessment. Though he rules out medal chances in the women's event, he is keeping his fingers crossed in the men's event.

"The standard of women swimmers in the country needs to improve. Even Richa's timings in the nationals were far behind the international standards. So, realistically speaking, we really have no chance here," Amin told IANS. "Among the men, we have hopes from Virdhawal Khade in the 50m and 100m freestsyle and Sandeep Sejwal in 50m and 200m breaststroke. Khade is in his best shape and we hope he comes up with some good results."   

Khade, at 15, became the youngest Indian swimmer to qualify for the Olympics in Beijing. The 18-year-old from Kolhapur notched up four golds in the national meet though he could not better his record. He, however, had some medal-winning performances last year with a bronze at the Asian Indoor Games (50m freestyle) and a silver in the Asian Swimming Championships (100m freestyle).

This year in the South Asian Games at Dhaka,  Khade rewrote two meet records - in the 50m butterfly and 50m freestyle categories - to win back-to-back golds.  Sandeep Sejwal, who qualified for the breaststroke in the Beijing Olympics, had finished at third place, grabbing his second individual bronze medal, in the 200m breaststroke event in the Asian Swimming Championship.

Sejwal, who qualified for the breaststroke in the Beijing Olympic Games,is a  national record holder in all his three events - the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke. This year, he reached the final of two events - the 50m and 200m breaststroke - at the French Open in Paris.

Amin, however, said their preparations have been affected due to government negligence. "We could not implement our preparation plans for the Games the way we wanted to. We had planned trips to few overseas countries but that could not happen. The reimbursements of the players were delayed," Amin pointed out.

"The only training of note we had was 60 days in Europe this year. We trained in Germany and France. We had a fruitful training there. All the swimmers are determined to put in their best," he said.

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