Olympians Srihari Nataraj and Maana Patel in focus at Senior National Aquatic Championships

India’s top swimmers will return to the pool for a home competition after two long years when the 74th Senior National Aquatic Championship gets underway in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

Maana Patel

Maana Patel, from Gujarat, will brace for a challenge from the fast-rising Karnataka swimmer Ridhima Veerendrakumar, who has been in outstanding form.   -  VIJAY SONEJI

India’s top swimmers will return to the pool for a home competition after two long years when the 74th Senior National Aquatic Championship gets underway here on Tuesday.

Though quite early in the fresh Olympic cycle leading up to Paris 2024, the meet assumes significance as it is a qualifying event for the FINA World Short Course Championship (Abu Dhabi, December 2021) and the FINA World Championships (Fukuoka, May 2022).

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With the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games also a part of the 2022 calendar, swimmers would want to kickstart their preparations in earnest.

“It is an important meet. We will get a good idea as to where we are and what we need to work on moving into the next season,” said ace backstroker Srihari Nataraj, who will look to further Karnataka’s dominance after its stellar show in the sub-junior and junior Nationals last week.

“There are few events where I will be putting in more than the others. I have been enjoying training for 100m and 200m freestyle. In backstroke, I just want to check where I am. We have a very good relay team too. Let’s see if I can come out of this Nationals with a perfect 10. Last edition, I won eight golds,” he added.

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Fellow Olympian Maana Patel, from Gujarat, will brace for a challenge from the fast-rising Karnataka swimmer Ridhima Veerendrakumar, who has been in outstanding form. “I was winning quite comfortably in the Nationals before. So, it's good to have competition,” Maana said on Monday.

“Ridhima broke two of my records in the junior meet. Earlier, I was the one challenging and breaking records. So, this is something different I’ll be experiencing,” the 21-year-old added.

There will be special focus on men’s water polo, with the Swimming Federation of India prioritising it for the Asian Games. Slobodan Soro, a coach from Tokyo 2020 men’s gold medallist Serbia, is set to travel to Bengaluru during the Nationals and help select 25 players for a 45-day camp in November-December and 17 core probables for a 30-day camp next year.

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