After making rapid progress last year, 21-year-old swimmer Srihari Nataraj is now looking to make history at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Swimmer Srihari Nataraj could win a medal in the 100m backstroke if he manages to achieve his personal best. Image: Srihari Nataraj’s Instagram
Although there have been sports where India has won many medals at the Commonwealth Games (CWG), swimming has not been among this privileged group as the nation has never won a medal in swimming without disabilities at the CWGs.
The country’s only medal in swimming came at the 2010 home edition in New Delhi when para-swimmer Prasanta Karmakar took bronze in the 50m freestyle bronze event. Swimming as a sport has struggled to gain popularity in India, however, there has been a growing increase on two of the most important fronts – performance in the pool and conversation around the sport.
At the forefront of this rapid ascent is Srihari Nataraj of Bengaluru. The 21-year-old swimmer last year became the second Indian to qualify directly for the Olympics after Sajan Prakash and also holds the national records for the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke events. He has rewritten national records many times over the past few years and undeterred by the burden of history and expectations, Nataraj has only one goal for the Birmingham 2022 Games: to win a medal and go down in history.
Nataraj qualified for the 100m backstroke event at the Games and will also compete in the 50m and 200m backstroke events.
“Based on my performance and swimming over the past two years, I’m aiming for a medal,” Nataraj said. First post from England. “There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be a medalist. In terms of starting, I’m better than many. I have good shots. In terms of preparation, everything went very well and that’s the best I’ve swum. So I’m going for a medal.”
Nataraj recently won gold in the 50m and 100m backstroke events at the Singapore National Swimming Championships 2022. Since the start of the year he has competed in France, Monte Carlo and Singapore and believes these competitive outings would help his case at the Games.
“It was a great experience to participate in these swimming competitions. In fact, I was able to compete against many swimmers who will participate in the Games. So it gave me an idea of the areas in which I am good and also highlighted evidence what I am missing,” he says.
“I have to work in those areas, but it’s not just that, I also have to improve in the areas where I’m good. When it comes to racing, I’ve always believed in my abilities. and that’s what it’s gonna be. Games.”
Nataraj has failed to hit his personal best (PB) this year though and will need to peak at the right time to have a chance at a medal. His PB in the 100m backstroke is 53.77 seconds, a timing that sent him to the Tokyo Games. In the 50m he holds the national record at 25.18 and in the 200m at 02:01.70.
At CWG 2018, Australian Mitch Larkin won the men’s 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke finals with times of 24.68, 53.18 and 1:56.10 respectively. The bronze medal in all three events went to 25.06, 54.14 and 1:57.04.
The competition is tough, but to be fair, Natraj also gained a lot of seconds. At the 2018 Games, 17-year-old Nataraj clocked 56.65 in the 100m backstroke. Now it’s almost three seconds faster. If he reaches his peak, there could be a possibility of a medal.
“Mentally I’m ready for the challenge. I’m ready for the game. When it’s time to get on the blocks and run, I’ve always been ready. I feel really confident. I’m not saying that because who I am From the way I trained and performed, everything is going in the right direction,” he adds.
“Certainly, there is a lot of experience now. The last Games were my first major competition, but now I have taken part in big events. Mentally and physically, I am in a much better position than four years ago. year.”
Currently Natraj, who is in Manchester, is tapering – a practice of reducing swimming volume and intensity before a major event – to recover well and build muscle strength ahead of the Games.
“It’s the first time I’ve tapered since the Olympics. Over the past year I’ve been training and improving my performance. We’ve had a really good pre-season…I’ve been tapering for cooling me down and giving the muscles enough recovery time so they have the strength when I need to max out,” Nataraj informs.
“It’s going well. I’ve been down for a week after coming back from Singapore. It’s been almost three weeks down for me. I’m mostly working now on fine-tuning the shots because most of the work has been done. It doesn’t There’s nothing you can change or build a few days before the Games. It’s just a matter of refreshing myself, refining my swimming and preparing myself so as not to make any mistakes in the race”, he concludes.
Besides Nataraj, veteran Sajan will compete in the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly events, Kushagra Rawat will compete in the 200m, 400m and 1500m freestyle events and Advait Page in the 1500m freestyle event.