Sejwal hopes to swim faster by a tenth of a second

After having missed out on the Commonwealth Games because of an ankle injury, the 29-year-old swimmer seems eager to excel, for one last time, on the Asian stage.

To ensure peak performance, Sejwal is solely concentrating on the 50m event.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR/ THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

By his own admission, the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta could be Sandeep Sejwal’s last international sojourn. “Right now, mentally, I am looking at just the Asian Games,” said the bronze medallist in 50m breaststroke from the last edition in Incheon. “I am seriously not thinking about what's after. It will depend on my performance. But to me, it seems like, it could be the last.”

This, however, shouldn’t be construed as words from a defeated man. It’s only been a month-and-a-half since he turned in an impressive display to clinch the gold in 50m breaststroke at the Singapore National Swimming Championships. The timing of 27.59s has placed him third in Asia in the latest FINA rankings, making him a sure-shot medal prospect in Jakarta.

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It’s just that he may be increasingly battle-weary. But after having missed out on the Commonwealth Games because of an ankle injury, the 29-year-old seems eager to excel, for one last time, on the Asian stage.

“I think I can do better than a bronze,” he said at the Speedo Invitational Swimming Championship here. “Even if I hadn’t missed out on CWG, Asian Games was my prime target for the last three years. The Singapore win came at the right time, just before the Asian Games. When you win a competition like that it’s definitely a very good motivator.”

To ensure peak performance, Sejwal is solely concentrating on the 50m event. “As you get older the recovery becomes more important. I’m not recovering well enough over 100 and 200m distances. But 50m is a more about power. So I am working harder in the gym to build strength and reach another level.”

It is also the distance which rewards skills being held in muscle memory over endurance and Sejwal hoped to draw from an experience of a lifetime, the acme of which was the medal-winning effort in 2014.

“I can’t say that medal from four years back gives me an edge but it definitely gives me confidence. I have been tracking my performances along with those from Japan and China and this year everyone is going neck to neck. So it is about handling pressure. I am hoping the experience of almost 20 years will help me.”

At the same time, the standard of competition isn’t lost on Sejwal. “Japan has got a few record holders. There is an Olympic gold medallist from Kazakhstan (Dmitriy Balandin, 200m). So for me, the breaststroke events at the Asian level are tougher than others. I am just trying to replicate the Singapore performance and go faster by a tenth of a second.”