Srihari eyes Olympic qualification mark

Srihari eyes Olympic qualification mark

Indian swimmers at the announcement of the 10th Asian Age-group Swimming Championships in Bengaluru on Friday. (back row, from left): Aryan Nehra, Likith SP, Srihari Nataraj, Hitten Mittal. Front row: Vidith Shankar, Suvana C Baskar, Nina Venkatesh. DH Ph

Despite an encouraging performance at the recently-concluded FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea where he broke nationals records, Srihari Nataraj was far off the Olympic Qualifying Time (OQT), which would have sealed his place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The Bengalurean broke national marks in 50m and 200m backstroke events with timings of 25.83 and 2:02.08 seconds respectively. In 100m, he clocked 55.55s, which is higher than his personal best of 55.49s. 

With 50m backstroke out of the picture in Tokyo, and the qualifying time for the 100m and 200m being 53.85s and 1:57.50s, Srihari will have to improve his timing to have any hopes of making it to the quadrennial mega event. The 19-year-old swimmer had even missed the Olympic Selection Time (OST) of 55.47s for 100m and 2:01.03s for 200m. 

"It was a good tournament. I didn't get the time that I expected but I tried my best and I have no regrets," said Srihari here on Friday. "I felt I was faster than what the time showed and I am pretty sure I can go a lot faster than what I did. I learnt at the meet and I know now the things that I need to change and the things that I could've done better," he added.

In the coming months, Srihari will have three more chances to reach the mark. In 15 days' time, he will leave for Budapest to compete at the World FINA World Junior Swimming Championships (August 20-25). On his return, he has Senior Nationals in Bhopal from August 31 to September 4, also an Olympic qualifying event, and the AASF Asian Age Group Championship here from September 24 to October 2.

With two of three events to be held in India, the Bengaluru lad is confident that he'll get through. "I am pretty sure I can achieve it," said Srihari here on Friday. "I have three meets in about three and a half months and I have a chance to qualify in any one of them with Asian Age group meet (in Bengaluru) being my main target," he added.

Srihari is aware of his shortcomings and plans to iron out the chinks before he goes on his quest for the qualification. "I just need to make sure I get good turns and my kicks. In 200, I need to make sure go fast enough in the first 100 where I feel like I hold back a lot," he said.

"I need to work hard on finishing the first 50m faster. If I go fast in the first 50m, then I am going to finish faster in the second as well. That's how it always worked for me. In the 200, my second 100 is on pace to go with the 'A' cut but I am not going fast enough in the first 100. If I do that more in practice then I can do that more in the race," divulged Srihari.

He is banking on the home advantage. "I get to stay at home which I feel is a big advantage for me because when you go abroad you need the right kind of food and you need to get acclimatised to conditions and that takes a while. Here I can just focus on my swimming and do what I have to.

"I am accustomed to the weather here. I am going to try to get the qualification wherever I can but I am very confident about racing in home conditions," Srihari explained.

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