Sunday swimming classes, summer camps and theme parks — swimming is pretty much an integral part of most of the children’s growing-up years. And yet, it has failed to take off as a competitive sport in India. In keeping with the not-so-happy trend, India is fielding only three swimmers in the 2018 Commonwealth Games — Srihari Nataraj, Sajan Prakash and Virdhawal Khade. India had fielded 20 able-bodied swimmers, 10 para-swimmers and three divers in 2010 when the country hosted the Games in New Delhi. In the subsequent edition in Glasgow, Scotland, the country sent six swimmers.
India hasn’t yet reached a stage where it could hope to be in contention for a medal in the Commonwealth Games (it won a para-swimming bronze in the 2010 CWG though) and the aim of the three swimmers would, at the most, be to make it to the finals of their respective events.
For all the gloom, Srihari Nataraj, at 17, will be keenly watched — to see if he can progress to the next level. He has been making waves in the national circuit, breaking three records in a meet, to be judged the best swimmer of the country last year. The experience of being in the vicinity of world champions like Adam Peaty and Chad le Clos and picking the tricks from the international swimmers would do him and Indian swimming a world of good.
Virdhawal Khade, the 26-year-old from Maharashtra, recently won the 50m freestyle gold medal at the Singapore National Age Group Championships with a season best timing of 23.02 seconds. Even that time would not be enough to finish in the top eight if the 2014 edition timings are anything to go by. Sajan Prakash will be competing in his second Commonwealth Games but he still has a lot of work to do to be a contender beyond the Asian region.
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