K’taka shuts down pools due to Covid, swimmer Nataraj in a bind


Srihari Nataraj, who is looking to qualify for the Olympics, suffered a setback to his preparations after Karnataka government’s fresh Covid-19 guidelines on Friday shut down pools. The development comes a week before he was supposed to leave for an International competition in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, starting on April 12.

A surge in new coronavirus cases is considered to be the main reason behind the state government’s decision to shut down pools. Bengaluru is a hotspot, says a coach familiar with the development.

The Swimming Federation of India (SFI) plans to send a 13-member team for the exposure trip to Tashkent.

The 19-year-old Nataraj who trains at Bengaluru’s Padukone Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence is one of the six Indian swimmers who have already achieved Olympics ‘B’ standard time in their respective events in the 2019 qualification cycle.

“No access to pool for a week will hamper our training,” one of the swimmers told IANS.

Nataraj holds national record in 50 metres, 100m and 200m backstroke events, but has achieved Tokyo Olympic ‘B’ standard in 100m backstroke.

Last week, SFI had conducted All India Invitational competition in Bengaluru to give an exposure to the swimmers as the 2020 domestic and international calendar was cancelled due to pandemic. In the competition, Nataraj clocked 25.46 seconds, a personal best for the 50m backstroke event.

Since ‘A’ qualification guarantees automatic berth, Nataraj is aiming to achieve good time in 100m backstroke events in near future.

Kushagra Rawat, Advait Page, Sajan Prakash, Aryan Makhija and Virdhawal Khade are the others who have achieved ‘B’ qualification time in their respective events. Except Khade and Nataraj, others are training abroad.