Sajan Prakash, Srihari Nataraj Notch India’s First Olympic A Cuts

Srihari Nataraj; Photo Courtesy: Swimming Federation of India

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Sajan Prakash, Srihari Nataraj Notch India’s First Olympic A Cuts

The wait for India’s first Olympic swimming A cut took decades. The wait for the second lasted mere hours.

Sajan Prakash made history Saturday by attaining the FINA A standard in the men’s 200 butterfly at the Sette Colli Trophy in Rome. He was joined on Sunday by Srihari Nataraj in the men’s 100 backstroke in a special time trial.

The men are the first swimmers from India to ever attain the Olympic A standard in an event.

Prakash made history on Saturday. He went 1:56.38 in the 200 fly, downing his national record of 1:56.96 that was set just last week at the Belgrade Trophy. The automatic qualifying standard is 1:56.48.

“I have worked very hard for this, and I was confident with the way I had trained,” Prakash said in a press release. “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.

“I am grateful to all the support I have received from SFI, SAI and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS). I believed in myself and my Coach Pradeep Kumar. Pradeep Sir was the anchor and I owe this to him. I knew I had it in me, and I am glad I achieved it.”

Prakash’s record meant that Nataraj would be bumped from the men’s universality spot bestowed on India as a nation without an A cut. So the 20-year-old rose to the occasion by going 53.77 in the men’s 100 backstroke on Sunday, undercutting the FINA A standard of 53.85, in a time trial.

The Bengaluru native missed the A cut by .05 seconds during the event Friday in 53.90. Nataraj’s first B cut was 54.69 at the 2019 World Junior Championships. The Swimming Federation of India indicated that the time trial is subject to FINA approval.

Prakash, a 27-year-old native of Kerala, would return Sunday to set an Indian record in the 200 freestyle in 1:49.73. That time downed the national record set by Virdhawal Khade (1:49.86) at the 2009 Commonwealth Youth Games. It’s Prakash’s third national record in the last month.

The records are part of a surge in Indian swimming, which included Advait Page setting a national mark in the men’s 1,500 freestyle this week at the Meet of Champions in Mission Viejo. Kenisha Gupta set the national record in the women’s 100 free at 57.35 at Sette Colli. Six swimmers have attained B standards.

Prakash and Nataraj will compete in Tokyo, pending FINA approval. Maana Patel will occupy a universality place on the women’s side.