Sajan Prakash on Saturday became the first-ever Indian swimmer to breach the Olympic qualification time, clocking 1:56:38 seconds in the men’s 200m butterfly event at the Sette Colli Trophy in Rome, Italy.
The 27-year-old, who represented India in the 2016 Rio Olympics, made the Tokyo Games ‘A’ standard, set at 1:56.48 seconds, by 0.1 seconds.
With the historic sprint, Prakash also rewrote his own national record of 1:56.96s that he had set last week at the Belgrade Trophy swimming competition.
He will take part in the Tokyo Games alongside Maana Patel, who has been nominated by the Swimming Federation of India for the Universality places.
Prakash’s direct qualification means Srihari Nataraj, who missed the ‘A’ the 100m men’s backstroke by 0.05s in Rome on Friday, will not be competing in the Tokyo Games despite being nominated for the Universality places.
The Universality quota allows one male and one female competitor from a country to participate in the Olympics, provided no other swimmer from the same gender qualifies for the Games or receives a FINA invite based on his or her Olympic Selection time (B time).
The Kerala swimmer has been continuously improving his performance in the 200m butterfly event.
Last week, in the Belgrade Trophy swimming competition he had clocked 1:56.96 seconds to miss the elusive ‘A’ qualification mark.
“This is not my peak yet, when I peak after some skill sharpening, after that I think it (A mark) will happen. I have to be patient for that,” he had told PTI in April after he clocked 1.57.85s in the Uzbekistan Open Championship.
Sajan is one of the leading Indian swimmers and was the first Indian swimmer to reach the final in Asian Games after 32 years when he achieved the feat in 22018 in Jakarta. He also won a silver medal in 100m butterfly at the 2018 Asian Indoor Games.
In Rio, he was the only Indian male swimmer to participate but it was on an invitational basis.
It was a good day for Indian swimming as TOPS developmental swimmer Kenisha Gupta also created a national record.
The Mumbai swimmer clocked 57.35 second in the 100m freestyle event at the Rome event.
(With PTI inputs)