India looking for a strong show

India looking for a strong show

Swimmers from different countries practice session on the eve of the 10th Asian Age group Swimming Championship at the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence on Monday. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

Following an up-curve in their performance as evidenced by the medal tally over the recent past events, India will hope to continue in the same vein when the Asian Age Group Swimming Championship begins at the Padukone-Dravid Center for Sports Excellence here on Tuesday.

The meet will feature 28 teams in Asia and would be one of the key meets for those looking to clock an Olympic qualification time.

The previous edition two years ago in Tashkent had seen India return with 40 medals and national team coach Pradeep Kumar S is confident of increasing the tally.

"We should win handsome number of medals, probably equal to what we did in the previous one or improve upon that. I feel we will overtake that tally," he remarked.

The meet will feature top talents, especially in the age groups which are divided into Group A (18 and above), Group B (15-17) and Group C (12-14), from top countries across the continent. Over 600 swimmers, 200 divers, 200 water polo players and 150 artistic swimmers will vie for the medals.

The hosts will have 86 athletes in contention with a 44-member swimming contingent.

"China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, these countries are the Asian powerhouses and will take the bulk of the medals," Kumar said. In addition, countries like Jordan and Syria are also expected to weigh in on the contest.

From an Indian perspective, all eyes will be on Srihari Nataraj and Virdhawal Khade as they are the two swimmers closest to making the Olympic 'A' qualification mark.

Srihari, who will be participating in all three backstroke and 100m freestyle, has a best time of 54.69s set in World Junior meet in Budapest last month, which is 0.84 seconds below the Olympic mark of 53.85s.

"I am going to try and get the 'A' qualification. I am confident that the golds are going to happen but it’s the faster timings that I am looking at," said a confident Srihari.

"Breaking national records consistently means I am in form. So, I am in good physical condition and good condition in the water and that’s what going to make the difference."

Meanwhile Khade, who clocked 22.43 at the Asian Games needs to cut his time down to 22.01 for the A cut. Having returned from an ACL injury and setting a meet record of 22.44 in last month's senior nationals, Khade is hopeful of a better show.
"Anything faster than at seniors (meet) is realistic expectation. That will also get me closer to the Olympic cut," he said.

Sajan Prakash and Kushagra Rawat are other swimmers hopeful of an Olympic spot in the open category alongside backstroker Maana Patel, who had a good show in the nationals, Rujuta Khade, Shivani Kataria and 50m butterfly national record holder Divya Satija. However, India will be without distance swimmer Advait Page and Aryan Makhija.

Sanjay CJ, George Mathew Tanish, Swadesh Mondal will be hopeful of medalling in Group I while Shoan Ganguly will lead Group II. In the girls' section, Khushi Dinesh, backstroker Suvana Bhaskar and Kenisha Gupta have the chance to be at the podium in Group I while Group II has good talents in Ridhima Veerendra Kumar, Apeksha Fernandes and Nina Venkatesh.

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