Tokyo 2020: Srihari Nataraj eyeing ‘A’ qualification mark

Srihari Nataraj is aiming for the ‘A’ qualification mark of 53.85 in 100m backstroke, which can assure him a berth in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Srihari said the Khelo India platform has helped him in more ways than one.   -  Sudhakara Jain

Promising swimmer Srihari Nataraj, who has won13 gold medals in two editions of the Khelo India Youth Games, is aiming to better his medal haul this time.

The Karnataka swimmer, who bagged six gold in 2018 and seven in 2019, is eyeing the top honour in all his eight events in 2020. He began by claiming the 100m backstroke title in boys’ under-21 category on Saturday.

The 19-year-old is using the platform here to prepare for a bigger target – the ‘A’ qualification mark of 53.85 in 100m backstroke, which can assure him a berth in the Tokyo Olympics.

READ| Swimmer Srihari Nataraj sets sights on Tokyo Olympics berth

“In 100m backstroke, I am 0.8 away from the ‘A’ qualifying time. All my coaches, parents, teammates and the federation believe that I can do it. I know I can do it. I am working on getting faster. I am keeping it simple – I need to go fast in the first 50m and need to come back faster in the last 50m,” Srihari told Sportstar.

Smarter and better

“I am working better and smarter and harder than I ever did. I am making sure to do the best I can. We are going to make it intense this year. Hopefully, it will work out.”

Srihari, who bettered the National records a few times in 2019, took heart from his improved performance. “The last year was the best year of my career. I dropped a lot of time, qualified (for the Olympics) in the ‘B’ qualification (time of 54.69 in the World junior championships), unfortunately just missed a medal in the World Junior Championships in the 50m backstroke (after finishing sixth). Made it to two finals.

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“Am happy with how it is going. It’s a good progression. I felt stronger than I ever was, I am faster and I hope this goes on and I am confident to do a lot better than what I have done so far.”

Srihari said the Khelo India platform has helped him in more ways than one. “This is where I can work on my races, figure out mistakes and focus on the tiny details. Also, it gives good financial support,” said Srihari.