Bengaluru, 14th July 2019: With the FINA World Championships, South Korea in July followed by the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Budapest in August followed by the 10th Asian Age Group Swimming Championships in India in September, elite Indian swimmers are all set to vie for a berth for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Only 01.69 seconds behind the ‘A Qualification’ Mark in 100m backstroke, 18-year-old prodigy from Bengaluru Srihari Nataraj is confident the target is achievable especially with an array of major competitions in the offing. “The next three months is undoubtedly going to be busy for me. I clocked 55.5 second in 100m in the recent State meet in Mysore where I was only half tapered and before that I went my personal best of 55.4 at the Malaysia Open Swim meet. Personally, the World Championships would be an ideal competition where I should be slashing off a second considering the pacing I would be getting from faster swimmers in the meet,” expressed a confident Srihari who leaves for Gwangju, South Korea on 18 July 2019 to participate in the FINA World Championships where he will take part in the 50, 100 and 200m backstroke events.

Being youngest in the Indian swimming contingent at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang last year, Srihari had surprised all by making the Final in both 100m and 200m backstroke event. The performance was a big career-boost, admits the youngster. “The exposure at Commonwealth Games and Asian Games last year was a big motivation especially because that was my first multi-discipline sporting event and I got to observe the Chinese, Australian and British swimmers closely. Doing well there did make me realise that I have the capability to raise the bar and A Qualification for Tokyo is a realistic target,” he said.

While he has been spending long hours at the Bangalore Swimming Research Centre training under Coach Jairaj, Srihari is eagerly looking forward to translate this effort into record breaking performances in the upcoming meets. “While improving my timing and recreating the best Indian performance is the aim for the World Championships, the goal at the FINA World Junior Championships is to win a Gold medal in all of my backstroke events. The 10th Asian Age Group Championships will another best platform to slash timing especially since I will have the home advantage here,” he added. Srihari’s current personal best in 200m is two minutes 02.4 seconds while in 50m he timed 25.84 seconds.

At the previous edition of Asian Age Group Swimming Championship, Srihari had signed off with a sensational three Gold Medals with three new meet records. He hopes to create similar results this time when he swims in front of his home crowd. “I am really looking forward to this meet in September. I have the fondest memories from the Asian Age Group Championships and I have been taking part in them since 2015. I believe the Group 1 category last year was much stronger than the Open category so I am hopeful of a strong medal haul this time,” he concluded.