Srihari, Kushagra capable, but Tokyo Olympics too early for A-mark: Sokolovas

Renowned physiologist and sports science expert Genadijus Sokolovas, who has worked with the likes of Michael Phelps, is at the National swimming camp in Bengaluru to interact with the top Indian swimmers.

Genadijus Sokolovas

Genadijus Sokolovas, renowned physiologist and sports science expert, with Kushagra Rawat (left-most) and Srihari Nataraj (centre).   -  Special Arrangement

Top Indian swimmers like Srihari Natraj and Kushagra Rawat had the potential to achieve the elusive A-mark Olympic Qualifying Time, but the Tokyo Games may be too soon for that, felt Genadijus Sokolovas, renowned physiologist and sports science expert who has in the past worked with legends like Michael Phelps.

Sokolovas, who has headed the Department of Physiology and Sport Science of USA Swimming, is in the city at the invitation of the Swimming Federation of India and is interacting with top swimmers at the National camp, currently underway at the Dravid-Padukone Centre for Sports Excellence (CSE), near here.

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“They have so much room to be faster,” Sokolovas said about Srihari and Kushagra, both of whom have achieved the B-mark Olympic time for the Tokyo Olympics. “It’s about learning how to swim correctly. The main thing for Indian swimmers is to develop a better beginning to their strokes. It’s important not to overuse the arm; they need to use the body to get faster.”

On Monday, Srihari and Kushagra were put through their paces, with Sokolovas coming up with a variety of drills using dumbbells, wrist weights and pull buoys to improve their kicking technique.

“Initially when he showed me the review and the analysis, I felt like, ‘do I even know how to swim’,” said Srihari. “That is how much he could find out about the changes I could make. I tried making some of them and I felt a lot smoother and also in control. Just shows how much there is for us to work on and improve.”

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Nihar Ameen, Dronacharya awardee and program director at the CSE, said that having access to someone like Sokolovas was a “god send”. “It’s important [to learn all these] because otherwise we are flying blind,” he added.

Thus far, about two dozen swimmers have been subjected to the swim power test, which breaks down every aspect of a stroke including breathing, lactate test, which gives a good indication of fitness levels, and start and turn analyses.

“Small changes in swim cycles can make a big difference,” said Sokolovas. “I would expect the top swimmers here to make the A-cut. Tokyo Olympics will be hard because there are just six months. [But] by next Olympics, there should be multiple A-cuts. These swimmers are young and they have got another 4-5 years to get to their peak performance.”

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