Srihari in focus as Karnataka aim for big splash

Srihari in focus as Karnataka aim for big splash

Srihari Nataraj

With a host of young talent raring to make a splash, Karnataka will be confident of defending their title in the 72nd Glenmark Senior National Aquatic Championship starting here on Wednesday.

Leading the pack at the Dr B R Ambedkar Aquatic Centre, on the outskirts of the state capital, will be lanky Srihari Nataraj, who has improved leaps and bounds since bursting onto the scene.

Coming into the competition on the back of three record-breaking efforts (in the 50, 100 and 200M backstroke events) at the recent Asian Games in Jakarta, the AC Jayaraj-ward will be oozing confidence.

Jayaraj, coach of the Karnataka team, asserted that his side will be the firm favourites to retain their title for the third consecutive year and even expected them to do better than last year when they ran away with the championships 70 points ahead of next best, Indian Railways.

“I am extremely confident that we will be able to retain the title. In fact, I’m confident that the margin will be a lot bigger than the last time around.

“Hari (Srihari) has been in really good form and this a tune-up event before the Youth Olympics so I want him to utilise it well and give his best. I’m sure he will sweep every event he participates in,” opined Jayaraj.

One of the highlights of the event will be a clash between backstroke-specialist Srihari and Sajan Prakash in the 200M freestyle.

Home favourite Sajan won’t be the only experienced swimmer taking the dip come Wednesday as Maharashtra’s Virdhawal Khade (50M and 100M freestyle), and Delhi’s Sandeep Sejwal go all out to shave points off Karnataka’s tally.

On the women’s side, Khushi Dinesh will be frontrunner in the 1500, 800, 400, 200 and 100 metre freestyle events, while the relay teams are also expected to dominate all three of their events.

Ahmedabad’s golden girl Maana Patel, who set the championship ablaze in 2016, will be making her comeback after making a full recovery from a shoulder injury.

It will be interesting to see how the 18-year-old fends off Dolphin Aquatics swimmer Suvana Baskar in the 200M backstroke.

“The girls are also really good. We have Damini, Khushi and Suvana who are top performers. I must add that the women’s relay team also is very strong this time around,” pointed out Jayaraj.

Going by recent performances by the Indian swimmers at the Asian Games, it looks like the perfect stage for records to tumble, but competitors also need to be wary of the humid climate that could be detrimental to their stamina over the next few days.

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