Age : 27
Event : 200m butterfly
Form Guide (specific to the Olympic event he is competing in):
June 2021: 1:56:38s (national record and A-cut) at the Sett Colli Trophy in Rome, Italy; 1:56.96 at the Belgrade Trophy 2021in Serbia;
April 2021: 1:57.85s at the Uzbekistan Open swimming championships
February 2021: 1:59.31- Latvian Open 2021
Kristok Milak oh hungary ( with a world record time of 1:50.73) Daiya Seto of China (1:52:53) Tamas Kenderesi of Hungary (1:53:42), Luca Urlando of US (1:53:84)
Sajan Prakash became the first Indian to earn a direct qualification in swimming when he clocked a record 1:56:38s in the 200m butterfly events at the Sett Colli Trophy in Rome on the last week of qualifying cycle. It was almost half a second faster than the national mark he set in Belgrade in the same month.
The 27-year-old will be competing in the second successive Olympics after his participation at the Rio Olympics through the Universality places quota. At Rio, he finished 28 out of 29 athletes in the heats.
The swimmer from Kerala rose to fame in 2015 when he won six gold medals and two silver medals at the National Games. He was also the first Indian swimmer since 1986 to qualify for the finals at the Asian Games in 2018 in the 200m butterfly where he finished fifth.
He suffered a slip disc in 2019 and the postponement of Olympics helped his cause in a way. Still recovering, he has still managed to shave off close to 1.66 seconds since 2019 despite limited pool time. Sajan was training in Thailand when the lockdown was announced in 2020. While Thailand opened its pool for athletes in May, it remained shut in India for athletes till October last year. He subsequently moved to Dubai to train with other Indian probables in August under coach Pradeep’s guidance in his academy.
He ranks 42 among the 43 athletes who have earned a direct qualification in the 200m butterfly event and is unlikely to be a medal contender.
READ: SFI nominates Sajan Prakash for Arjuna, Kamlesh Nanavati for Dhyan Chand award
Event: 100m Backstroke
June 2021: 53.77s in time trial at the Sett Colli Trophy in Rome (A-cut and national record); 54.45s in Belgrade Trophy 2021, Serbia;
April: 54.10s in the heats, 54.07s in the final to win the gold in Uzbekistan Open Swimming Championship.
100 Backstroke: Ryan Murphy of USA is the defending Olympic gold medallist and world-record holder (51.85s ); Xu Jiayu is the two-time world champion (51.86), Kliment Kolesnikov (51.13) and Evgeny Rylov (52.12) are the top two swimmers in the world this year.
Srihari Nataraj had shown enough promise through much of 2018 and 2019 with multiple national records under his name to be labelled as the next big swimming star from India. He was rapidly bettering his national marks and achieved the ‘B’ standard timing in 100m backstroke at the FINA World Junior Championships in 2019 but the lockdown in 2020 halted his progress. He was away from pool for five months before the SAI decided to send him to Dubai for training in August.
When Srihari Nataraj resumed competition racing in Uzbekistan this April, he showed no signs of rust, breaking his national mark twice in his pet event – 100m backstroke, and coming close to the A-standard by 0.22 seconds.
With time running out for securing the A-mark, the Swimming Federation nominated the swimmer from Bengaluru as India’s male representative through Universality place quota. But with Sajan Prakash achieving the A-cut in 200m butterfly in the last qualifying event in June, only an A-cut would see the 20-year-old make the trip to Tokyo. He rose to the challenge and did a 53.77s in a time trial at the same event the very next day to ensure he qualified on merit for his maiden Olympics. He is one of the youngest members to represent India at Tokyo.
He ranks 41 among the 48 swimmers who have secured the A-standard timing in 100m backstroke and is unlikely to be a medal contender.
Event: Women’s 100m backstroke
1:04.47s in 100m backstroke, won gold in Uzbekistan; 1:03.77 seconds (new national record) at Belgrade Trophy 2021;
Medal contenders: Kylee Mckeown ( world record holder, 57.45s); Regan Smith of USA (57.57), Kylie Masse of Canada (57.70); Kathleen Dawson of Great Britain (58.08)
Maana Patel has been chosen to represent India through the Universality place quota in the women’s 100m backstroke event as no Indian women has secured an A cut. She rose to prominence in 2015 by setting national records in the women’s 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke events and won six medals at the South Asian Games in 2016. A shoulder injury in 2017 stunted her journey.
An ankle injury in 2019 didn’t help her cause but the pandemic gave her enough time for recovery as she returned to competition this year with creditable performances in Uzbekistan and Belgrade. She bettered the national mark she set in 2015 with a 1:03.77s effort at Belgrade Trophy in Serbia and was subsequently nominated by the SFI to compete in Tokyo.