India’s veteran swimmer Sajan Prakash is keen on putting his training sessions to test at the 19th FINA World Championships Budapest 2022, which begin on June 18.
He is all set to start his World Championship journey with his marquee event - the 200m butterfly - which commences on the morning of June 20. This is Sajan’s first competition post his shoulder injury, following the Danish Open in April, where he won gold in the 200m butterfly.
“From here I'll start progressing to the Commonwealth Games. Right now, World Championship is not the main focus, but [I] will try my best here with all the negatives put behind me. While I will not taper now, [I]will focus on competing well at CWG. That’s the main target for now,” Sajan told Sportstar.
Pradeep Kumar, Sajan’s coach, has not accompanied him to Hungary. Sajan left for the competition on June 16 from the United Arab Emirates, where he was training with Kumar for the Worlds.
In case Sajan qualifies in the heats, there are high chances of him competing against the likes of crowd favourite Kristof Milak of Hungary and South African Chad Le Clos.
After a three-day break from his first event, Sajan will participate in the 100m fly, marking an end to his world championship journey and starting his Commonwealth Games preparation.
Apart from watching his fellow-Indian swimmers Kushagra Rawat, Ridhima Veerendra Kumar, and Kenisha Gupta perform, Sajan is also keen on observing other 100m and 200m fly participants.
“Apart from my race - since I mainly swim butterfly - I’m looking forward to seeing the Caeleb Dressel- Kristof Milak clash in the 100m fly and hope to see Milak break WR (World Record) in the 200m butterfly,” he says, brimming with excitement.
The shoulder injury put the Kerala swimmer's practice for the World Championship on hold.
While Kumar assures that the 28-year-old has recovered from his injury and is fit to participate in the two events at the World Championship, he emphasises on the training sessions Sajan missed during his rehabilitation phase.
“The injury caused him pain, and he was unable to practice and train for about 15-20 days, but he bounced back. A swimmer, who is swimming for 20 years can get this kind of wear and tear, especially due to repetitive motions like the 200m butterfly, however, such injuries are part and parcel of an athlete. Since Sajan is a 28-year-old, it might take a little more time to recover when compared to an 18- to 19-year-old,” says the Dronacharya Awardee .
Having been Sajan’s coach for over a decade, Kumar expects his ward to touch the 1:57-1:58s-mark in his favourite event, the 200m fly, at the Worlds. It is at this event that he broke the National Record and set a personal best of 1:56.38s in 2021 at the 2021 Sette Colli Trophy in Rome.
Talking about Sajan’s fitness post-injury, Kumar says, “While he has come back (to his pre-injury form), he is about 85 per cent, and with one month of high-altitude training after the worlds, I’m sure by Commonwealth Games he will be 100 per cent fit.”
With the postponement of the Asian Games, Kumar is happy that Sajan has only one major event to focus this year, rather than two back-to-back events, as was the case prior to rescheduling.
After a month of assessing his pupil’s performance post-injury, he said, “We know that in the World Championship, he would stand at 20th-22nd spot. There’s no chance of competing in the semifinals or finals. However, in CWG, he is anywhere between third and fifth place, so we are looking forward for him to peak during the CWG.”
Kumar and Sajan will fly to Sierra Nevada from Budapest, where the swimmer will undergo high-altitude training from June 25 to July 23 with the aim to peak and perform at his best at the Commonwealth Games.
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