Eyeing Olympic berths, Indian swimmers Virdhawal Khade, Srihari Nataraj and Kushagra Rawat will resume their training later this month in Dubai after a long hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Sports Authority of India said on Saturday.
The Indian trio, who will train at Dubai’s Aqua Nation Swimming Academy, will be accompanied by coach AC Jayarajan for a two-month stint at a cost of around Rs 35 lakh ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
“Sports Authority of India has approved two months training for three Olympic probable swimmers who will be accompanied with a coach at a cost of around 35 lakhs ahead of next year’s Tokyo Olympics,” SAI said in a release.
The Swimming Federation of India has already initiated the visa processing and is targeting the last week of August to send the swimmers to Dubai.
“We have already started working on the visa and as soon as that comes through and the flight tickets are done they will be off to Dubai,” secretary general Monal Chokshi told PTI.
“We were targeting 20th of August but that’s too soon, so realistically we will try for August 24-25,” he added.
The swimmers will also have the assistance of the national coach Pradeep S Kumar, who is already present at the academy in Dubai.
“Srihari’s coach Jayarajan will be travelling with the swimmers. Pradeep Kumar is also there at the same academy,” Chokshi informed.
Khade (50m freestyle), Nataraj (100m backstroke) and Rawat (400m, 800m, 1500m freestyle) have breached the ‘B’ qualification mark for the Tokyo Games. The swimmers were relieved to know they will finally be able to resume training.
“I am excited and glad that this is happening. I would like to thank SFI and SAI for their support and effort to get us back into the pool. I hope other swimmers can also resume training soon,” Srihari said.
“I am very excited that I will get to swim after five months. I’ll have to monitor how my performance is, assess my level. My motivation has definitely risen after hearing about the camp,” Rawat said.
Swimmers in India have not entered the pools since March 25 when the first coronavirus-forced lockdown was announced. Though there has been some easing of restrictions, the use of pools remains prohibited in the country till August 31.
The SAI said the decision to allow the swimmers to train in Dubai was taken “in lieu of the current prevailing situation as swimming pools in India are not yet accessible as a safety measure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Nataraj, who achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark last year in the 100m backstroke event with a national record 54.69sec, needs to bring his timing down to 53.85 seconds to be sure of a Tokyo Games spot.
Rawat had achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark in the three events of 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle.
Three other swimmers – Sajan Prakash, Aryan Makhija and Advait Page – have also achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark in their respective events for the Olympics and are aiming for the ‘A’ standard.
Prakash, who spent the entire lockdown at an academy in Phuket, started training when the pools opened in Thailand, while Makhija and Page flew back to USA to their respective universities and resumed training there.