India plans to host Olympic qualifying swimming event

The Swimming Federation of India (SFI) plans to host an International Swimming Federation (FINA)-accredited competition in June to provide exposure to top Indian swimmers, said SFI’s secretary general Monal Chokshi.

Due to strict Covid-related protocols, it is becoming increasingly difficult to compete in competitions outside the country either on the Asian or European circuit, said Chokshi. He pointed out that several countries like Singapore or Thailand aren’t allowing foreigners to compete in the events without having going through the mandatory quarantine rules due to the pandemic.

“After seven or 14 days of quarantine it wouldn’t be possible to compete in the pool. Hence we are planning to have one competition on Indian soil,” Chokshi told IANS.

In the 2019 Olympic qualification cycle, six top swimmers, including teenaged Srihari Natraj from Bengaluru and 20-year-old Kushagra Rawat of Delhi, had achieved B qualification time in their respective events. Sajan Prakash, Advait Page, Aryan Makhija, and Virdhawal Khade are the other four.

Natraj had clocked B qualification time of 54.69 secs for 100 m backstroke while the A qualification time is 53.85 secs.

Rawat has achieved B qualification time in three events — 400 m, 800 m, and 1,500 m events for the Tokyo Olympics.

Prakash is currently training in Dubai. Long distance swimmer Page, a second year student of University of Florida, is training in the USA. Makhija is enrolled in Auburn University and is aiming to achieve A qualification in 800m freestyle.

Till date no Indian has achieved the A qualification time which ensures an automatic berth for Olympic Games, says Chokshi. The B qualification time doesn’t promise participation as it is sort of an invitation.

Athletes in B category only get chances after quota places aren’t filled.

“If the proposed national competition in June gets the world governing body’s sanction, it would enable the country’s elite swimmers an opportunity to compete in an Olympic qualification competition on home soil,” Chokshi said.