India finished with a record tally of 52 medals (15 golds, 19 silvers, 18 bronzes), 12 better than the previous best at Tashkent, 2017, as the swimming competitions at 10th Asian Age Group Championship drew to a close at the Padukone-Dravid Centre for the Sports Excellence here on Friday.
Srihari Nataraj (200m backstroke, 2:04.25), Virdhawal Khade (50m butterfly, 24.22) and the men’s 4x200m relay team (7:41.06) swelled India’s gold tally on the final day, while S. Siva finished a creditable second to Srihari and Maana Patel secured the silver in 200m backstroke.
The day also saw Divya Satija set a new national record in 50m butterfly, the only Indian best timing in the open category at this competition. With a swim of 28.27, she erased her previous mark of 28.33 set at the Senior Nationals earlier this month.
“All my focus was on this meet as this was my first international competition,” Divya said later. “I was very excited and gave my best shot. I wasn’t nervous. I wanted to know what it felt like to be representing India. I still have a lot to improve. If I can get better on my starts, I can go faster.”
National Coach Pradeep Kumar termed the overall performance as satisfactory despite no swimmer reaching the Olympic A-mark. “It was always going to be tough as the Senior Nationals was very close," he said. "We didn’t have much time. We are focusing on a few meets in Doha and Singapore. In those, we expect them to peak.”
He singled out the junior swimmers for praise, despite Shoan Ganguly being the lone gold medallist and India not winning a single medal in Group II girls category. He admitted that the gulf between India and Asian powerhouses like Thailand, China and Japan was significant, but remained optimistic.
“For many of them, it was the first international event," he stated. "It was great exposure. They swam some great races. There was tough competition in those groups. We got about 25 personal bests from those age groups. That's a great sign of improvement.”