In a sport starved of big stars, Srihari Nataraj provides Indian swimming its biggest hope. Every time he swaggers to the starting block there is an air of expectancy of a record, as setting records has become a habit for the lad from Karnataka.
The Jakarta Asian Games was a huge opportunity for the youngster to showcase his talent and he didn’t disappoint, setting two Indian Games records - in 50m backstroke and 200m backstroke events.
At the Glenmark 72nd National swimming championship in Thiruvananthapuram, the youngster continued from where he left off, blitzing the pool in his favourite events. He improved his Asian Games performances by setting national records in 50m backstroke and 200m backstroke events to underline his growing stature.
Srihari qualified for the FINA World Short course meet in China in December and he is keen to do well there. "It will be a good experience as it is the biggest meet of my career. Obviously I will be looking to improve my timing and reach at least the semifinals," he said.
But the 18-year-old is currently focused on the Youth Olympics next month. "Right now my goal is to do well in Youth Olympics. I had done well in Asian Youth meet and won medals. It would be great if I can repeat that performance in the Youth Olympics," he said.
Finishing 200m backstroke in under two minutes and 50 backstroke under 26 seconds are some of his goals this year. "Normally I don’t set myself any goals as everything depends on the kind of form I am in. But I think I can go under 2 minutes in 200m back stroke and under 26 seconds in 50 m back stroke this year,’’ he said.
The gangling youngster swam around 15 races in four days in Thiruvananthapuram and is pleased with his performance. "I wasn’t keen to participate here but I was asked to compete by federation and I am happy that I was able to do my personal best in my favourite events. The records were a bonus. I competed against experienced and better swimmers in some events and it was a good experience ,’’ he said.
Srihari, who trains under coach A.C. Jayarajan at the Bangalore Swimming Research Centre (BSRC), feels he need to improve his technique at the turn, his strokes and his physique as well. "I need to improve my turn as I feel I am losing precious seconds there. I also need to hold my wrists a lot straighter in the back stroke and also the movement of my feet. I am working on it. Sometimes speaking to experienced swimmers like Madhu, Khade, Aaron helps as they point out my flaws,’’ he said.
Coach Jayarajan said Srihari needed to improve his core strength. "He is a young boy and obviously we should be careful with him. But he needs to build muscles and improve the strength on his lower body especially the abdomen,’’ he said.
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