The Indian swimming contingent, which will be heading to Tokyo, created history by becoming the first ever Indian swimmers to qualify for the Olympic Games. Let us learn a bit about our swimmers heading to Tokyo this summer!.
Sajan Prakash – (Men’s 200m butterfly)
Sajan Prakash will go down in history as the first Indian swimmer to get a direct qualification to the Olympics. A sport which doesn’t have a rich history in the country has seen the rise of a young star who has taken the world by storm with his talent.
Prakash has previously represented India at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and at the Asian Games the same year, but it was his performance in the 2015 National Games that put the spotlight on the young Keralite swimmer. Prakash won a record-breaking eight medals, six of which were silver.
He continued his good run with a trio of gold medals at the 2016 South Asian Games and won a nomination for the 2016 Rio Olympics, albeit under the universality quota. After a disappointing maiden Olympic campaign, the youngster had put in all the hard work which bore fruit when he clocked 1:56.38s, a national record at the 2021 Sette Colli Trophy, in the 200m butterfly event. The timing saw Prakash gain an Olympic berth as it was under the Olympic Qualification Time and hence became the first Indian to win a direct qualification for the Olympics.
Prakash knows he has rough waters ahead, but he is out to prove a point and have people recognise the sport.
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Srihari Nataraj – (Men’s 100m backstroke)
When FINA approved Srihari Nataraj’s timing, he became the youngest ever to break the A Qualification mark to book a place for himself at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The youngster from Bangalore boasts an impressive CV in his short yet promising career as he holds the national records in 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke events.
Nataraj’s seven-gold-medal haul at the 2019 Khelo India Youth Game showcased what he is capable of. He rose to national fame in 2018, where he had stellar performances at the Khelo India School Games (winning six golds and a sliver), Commonwealth Games, Asian Games (setting three national records) and the Youth Olympics that gave him the exposure at the international level.
A 54.69s in the 100m backstroke event saw the youngster make the B cut for the Olympics at the World Junior Championship in Budapest in 2019. Nataraj’s qualification time of 53.77s at the Sette Colli Trophy saw the Bangalore boy book a seat to Tokyo and became the country’s youngest ever to qualify for the Games in the sport.
Also Read – TOKYO OLYMPICS: INDIA’S SAILING CONTINGENT
Maana Patel – (Women’s 100m backstroke)*
[Although Patel has been nominated for the Olympic berth via the universality places, the final decision on her berth will be made on 1st July, as to whether she will go or not]
When Maana Patel’s mom took her seven-year-old daughter to the swimming centre to enroll her daughter in hopes that swimming would increase her daughter’s appetite, little did she know that it would go on to change her daughter’s life forever.
Patel first grabbed headlines when he broke the national record in 200m backstroke at the 40th Junior National Aquatics Championship in 2013. Since then, she has seen a meteoric rise, having taken double gold medals at the National Games in the 50m backstroke and 200m backstroke events. She won gold at the 1000m backstroke event at the 60th National School Games in 2015 where she broke the national record.
The Ahmedabad girl was selected for the Olympic Gold Quest – a program looking to bridge the gap between international Olympic stars and upcoming Indian talents. Patel further proved her talents when she took 6 medals at the South Asian Games in 2016, two of which were gold.
Patel will further look to make her mark on the international stage when she makes her Olympic debut this summer in Tokyo.