Sajan Prakash on Saturday created history by becoming the first Indian swimmer to make the ‘A’ qualifying time for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. He recorded the fastest time ever clocked by an Indian in 200m butterfly as he touched pads at 1:56.38 in Sette Colli, Rome – a FINA accredited Olympic Qualifying meet. The ‘qualifying standard was 1:56.48.
With the Olympic Qualifying deadline set as 27th June, Sajan’s feat in Rome has set a new milestone for Indian swimming. “This is a historic moment for Indian swimming, and we are all absolutely thrilled with Sajan’s performance in Sette Colli, Rome which happened to be the last event to make the ‘A’ qualifying mark. Sajan’s achievement has broken the glass ceiling in Indian swimming which will inspire the generations to come. This stupendous result has come despite the several challenges posed by the pandemic,” stated Monal Chokshi, Secretary General, Swimming Federation of India.
Sajan had clocked 1:56.96 in the previous meet in Belgrade, Serbia last week but was well-tapered and confident to make the mark in Rome. Reacting soon after the race, Sajan said, “I have worked very hard for this, and I was confident with the way I had trained. This was my last chance, and I knew I had to do it here. I had come so close to the qualifying mark in the previous meets, but my coach Pradeep Sir and I planned my tapering in such a way that I would peak at these two events in Serbia and Rome.”
Virendra Nanavati, Executive Director, Swimming Federation of India congratulated Sajan for his feat. He said, “All of us at SFI are very happy that an Indian swimmer has finally hit the world stage with an ‘A’ qualifying time for the Olympic Games. This has been a dream and it has come true today. It has been one of the best build-ups to an Olympic Games in the history of Indian swimming with as many as six swimmers making the ‘B’ cut and this is the first-time multiple swimmers have come so close to the Olympic A cut. I am sure this feat will now set the ball rolling for better performances in the coming years and we would like to congratulate Sajan as well as his Coach Pradeep S Kumar for their perseverance to achieve this mark.”
In other races in Sette Colli, Rome, Kenisha Gupta clocked best Indian performance of 57.35 in 100m freestyle for women. On Friday, backstroke sensation Srihari Nataraj missed the A qualifying mark by 0.05 seconds, having touched the pads at 53.90 in 100m backstroke for men. The ‘A’ cut for this event is 53.85 seconds.
Lauding the swimmers who showed great commitment in their pursuit to achieve success, SFI President Jayaprakash Narayan, “SFI is grateful to SAI and MYAS who have extended their full support to swimming and ensured the swimmers travel for these qualifying meets despite the pandemic. I also congratulate Srihari Nataraj, though he missed the A cut by a very close 0.05 fraction of a second, he has shown his mettle as a young swimmer, and he definitely has a bright future.”