Sejwal powers to rare bronze

Last Updated 26 September 2014, 19:03 IST

Breaststroke ace picks up India’s third swimming medal in the last 28 years with fine show.

Eight years of sweat finally bore fruit for Sandeep Sejwal. 

At the Munhak Aquatics Center on Friday, the 25-year-old Delhiite took everyone by surprise, nailing a bronze medal in his pet event – the 50M breaststroke.

Having already created a buzz by qualifying for the final like his former training partner Virdhawal Khade did in the 50M butterfly event at Guangzhou four years ago, the Bangalore-based swimmer repeated his friend’s feat, finishing third for a rare medal in aquatics.

With the second-best timing from the heats, Sejwal, starting in lane 5, was quickly off the blocks. He led for the better part of the race, raising hopes of even a gold or a silver.But, he suffered a hiccup around the 40-metre mark to touch the pad third with a timing of 28.26 seconds, behind winner Dmitriy Belandin of Kazakhstan (27.78) and silver-medallist Yashuhiro Koseki of Japan (27.89).

“This is the biggest medal of my life,” said Sejwal, speaking to reporters along with his coach Nihar Ameen. 

“It’s been one of my childhood dreams to win a medal for India at such a big event. It’s something that I’ll relish for the rest of my life,” added Sejwal with smile splashed all over his face.

“I’ve been training very hard for eight years to enjoy a moment like this. When I stood on the starting block, all that eight years of toil flashed across me. I wanted to make that count. I didn’t want to ruin it because you would never get a chance like this again. “When I qualified for the final, I actually aspired for the gold. However, I’m glad with winning a medal.” The medal comes as a great boost for Sejwal who appeared shattered a little over two years ago. 

Despite having crossed the Olympic Selection Timing (OST), he missed out on a ticket to London Games, thanks to world body FINA’s quirky selection standards.

Although disappointed, he didn’t allow it to get the better of him, hitting the pool and training much harder. With Nihar too wielding a huge influence, Sejwal showed his class at Incheon. “Missing Olympics really hurt me because that’s what all of us train for. I somehow don’t understand the selection criteria. Now that I’ve won bronze, my focus is on the World Championship and Rio Olympics.”

Sejwal’s medal is only India’s third in swimming in the last 28 years, after Khazan Singh’s silver in the 200M butterfly and Khade’s bronze in the 50M butterfly.

"I hope this medal will give Indian swimming a lift," Nihar Ameen said, calling for improved facilities.

Results: Men:  1500m Freestyle: Yang Sun (China) 14:49.75, 1; Kohei Yamamoto (Japan) 14:54.86, 2; Kecheng Wang (China) 15:06.73, 3. 50M breaststroke: Dmitriy Balandin (Kazakhstan) 27.78, 1; Yasuhiro Koseki (Japan) 27.89, 2; Sandeep Sejwal (India) 28.26, 3. 4x100M medley relay: China 3:31.37, 1; Japan 3:31.70, 2; South Korea 3:39.18, 3. 

Women’s: 50M Freestyle: Xinyi Chen (China) 24.87, 1; Miki Uchida (Japan) 25.11, 2; Yi Tang (China) 25.17, 3. 200M backstroke: Sayaka Akase (Japan) 2:10.31, 1; Jie Chen (China) 2:10.53, 2; Thi Nguyen (Vietnam) 2:12.25, 3.

200M individual medley: Shiwen Ye (China) 2:08.94, 1; Kanako Watanabe (Japan) 2:10.58, 2; Miho Teramura (Japan) 2:11.24, 3.

(Published 26 September 2014, 19:02 IST)

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