A bunch of Indian swimmers are currently in Singapore, keen to make a splash in the 14th Singapore Nationals, which begin on Wednesday.
Around ten, including Sandeep Sejwal, Virdhawal Khade, Aaron D’souza and Saurabh Sangvekar, will be in action in the four-day meet to get a feel of the competition, some with hopes of making the cut for the Asian Games.
Many of them are trainees of prominent coach Nihar Ameen, the Dronacharya awardee, and are going on their own with the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) only clearing the trip.
The Asian Games begin in Jakarta on August 18 but strangely, the SFI has scheduled the 72nd Senior Nationals, its premier event, a month later in Thiruvananthapuram (Sept. 19-23).
And surprisingly, instead of organising a strong meet to bring out the best from its stars, the SFI conducted selection trials in Bengaluru recently to pick its Asiad team.
“The problem is, June 30 is the last date for sending the Asiad entries. But having the Senior Nationals in June is too early,” Kamlesh Nanavati, the SFI’s Ahmedabad-based General Secretary, told Sportstar on Tuesday.
“Also, departments like the Police and Services, need to have their meets before the Nationals. And because of cold conditions in North India, many start swimming only in April. So, we had to conduct trials for the Asiad.”
Incidentally, the SFI had kept the National Games in Goa in mind while scheduling its Senior Nationals. “Earlier, they announced the National Games from November 4, so we had to finish the Nationals before that to finalise the teams. For example, in water polo, only the top eight teams of the previous Nationals qualify for the National Games. So, we had to conduct the Nationals in September,” explained Kamlesh. “Now, the National Games are postponed too.”
Incidentally, the Bengaluru trials attracted few swimmers.
“We had 30 swimmers, men and women, at the trials, which were held in all events. Two of them, Sandeep Sejwal and Virdhawal Khade, have qualified (qual. mark: last Asiad’s sixth place) for the Asian Games and we are also hopeful of medals from them” said Kamlesh.
But he did not appear very keen to reveal the results of the trials.
“They were not like results, only timings. We also gave two chances (morning and evening sessions) for the swimmers to make the Asiad cut.
“We did not allow juniors at the trials because we have the Junior Nationals in Pune later this month, they will be selected from there. There are some very promising juniors, so we will announce the full Asiad team in Pune on June 29.”
Kamlesh revealed that performances in the world body FINA-approved meets will also be considered for selection.
“Some, like Sajan Prakash, are training outside. The young back-stroker Srihari is also doing good, so all these things will be considered before finalising the team.”
Kerala’s Sajan Prakash had impressed in a recent meet in Malaysia where his gold-winning time in the 200m butterfly was better than the SFI’s qualification standard for the Asiad.
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