Srihari Nataraj: 'Should reach 80 per cent of my peak within a month'

Srihari Nataraj was elated at the development and thanked the Sports Authority of India and the Swimming Federation of India for arranging their training in Dubai.

Srihari Nataraj achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark last year in the 100m backstroke event with a national record timing of 54.69s.   -  Sudhakara Jain

It has been a long wait to get back to the pool for India’s Olympic aspirants. After nearly five months, swimmers Srihari Nataraj, Virdhawal Khade and Kushagra Rawat were on Saturday granted permission by the government to train in Dubai at national coach Pradeep Kumar’s Aqua Nation Swimming Academy.

The trio, who have achieved the ‘B-qualification mark for the Tokyo Olympics, will be accompanied by coach A.C. Jayaraj and will train in Dubai for two months.

Srihari Nataraj was elated at the development and thanked the Sports Authority of India and the Swimming Federation of India for arranging their training. “SFI is trying to confirm the travel dates and get everything ready. We are expecting to travel around 20-24 August. I am ready,” he said.

The 19-year-old achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark last year in the 100m backstroke event with a national record timing of 54.69s. He will need to bring it down by 0.85s to 53.85s to make the ‘A’ cut and secure direct qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.

Srihari remains confident of making the ‘A’ cut. “I am going to definitely try to get the A cut, I am positive that I can. I was confident of doing well in tournaments that I had planned to enter with the way  I was training, but unfortunately things changed due to lockdown. Hopefully, in the next 4-5 months or in the next half a year, I can get to the ‘A’ mark, “ he said.

READ: Olympic probable swimmers to resume training in Dubai: SAI

Srihari set up a fully equipped gym at his home in Bengaluru to stay in top shape and is hoping to get to “80-90 per cent” of his peak rhythm within a month of hitting the pool.

“I got some equipment and now have a fully equipped gym at home, so the workout was pretty good. I think I should be within 80 per cent of my peak within a month or six weeks. We will first try to get back to doing things the way we are used to, work on the basics and the techniques and then work on speed,” he said.

Despite being short-pressed for time to improve his timing in the 100m backstroke, Srihari, who is also the national record holder in 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke events, said he will continue to train for all the strokes and not just focus on the single event.  

“I will train the same way I have always trained. I have enjoyed training all strokes and racing in multiple events with different strokes, so I am going to stick to the same method of training mainly because it works. It's something I enjoy doing. I am not someone who thrives on just one race. I may not race in all, but training in all strokes also has its benefits,” he said.

He also said he isn’t thinking too far ahead about tournaments yet. “I need to get those two months of training first to get to 80-90 per cent. There is no point racing when I am not there yet.

It doesn't make a difference. I have to first get back to the pool, and after a few weeks of training I can think about tournaments, he sad.  

According to the travel protocols in Dubai, the visitors will have to show negative PCR test results for COVID-19 (valid for 96 hours) upon arrival. They may also be asked to undertake another PCR Test at the airport and agree to undergo a 14-day home quarantine.

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