Does India have a chance at the FINA World Aquatics Championships?

Deepshikha Chatterjee

July 21st, 2017

|Image: Deccan Herald, Indian Express, Firstpost|

With India making its mark in the landscape of athletics, it is now time for the season of aquatic sports to make its presence felt. The 17th FINA World Championships is all set to be held in Budapest. In fact, nearly one week of the competition’s period has already elapsed. This year, six Indians are a part of the proceedings.

Among them is 18-year old Damini Gowda. A major name in the junior Aquatics Championships, Damini’s tryst with senior level competitions is relatively unseasoned. Previously, she has competed with fantastic results at the South Asian Games held in Guwahati in 2016. She won four medals in the tournament back then with two of those medals coming in individual disciplines of the butterfly; something that has been consistently regarded as one of the toughest disciplines.

Damini Gowda has been remarkable so far in Junior Championship tournaments.

Also among the six is Madhu PS. In March 2017, Madhu broke his own record to claim the Gold in Men’s 100m backstroke on the very first day of the 70th Glenmark National Aquatics Championship. The competition was held in Ranchi and it saw a spirited performance by the 25-year old as he clocked a timing of 26.73 to surpass his own best Indian timing of 27.02. This record came three years after the previous one in 2014.

India’s Olympic representative in Swimming, Sajan Prakash, is also a part of the continent. The youngster qualified with a B time at a Singapore event. Eager followers of aquatic sports in the country will be keenly keeping an eye on him to progress through to the knockout rounds of at least two events. He specialises in both the 100m and the 200m butterfly and his current form has certainly been encouraging. Sajan’s first claim to fame came after his dominant performance at the 2015 National Games held at Trivandrum. Speaking about his long-term goals, Sajan was quoted as being completely positive regarding his chances at the Asian Games in 2018.

Sajan Prakash’s National level form is an encouraging sign.

So far, the exposure that Indian swimmers have received has been less than optimal or favourable. Which is why competing in such international level competitions might prove conducive to the development of aquatic sports in the country. This fact was not lost on Sajan Prakash who, prior to this competition was quoted by The New Indian Express as stressing the importance of competing at the Olympics. ” Experience and exposure-wise you learn a lot at the Olympics”, he said. “I hope to put some of that into practice in Tokyo in three years time but the main long term goal for me is to do well at the Asiad in Jakarta next year.”

For the past three years, not a single Indian has been able to progress beyond the heats of this tournament. While this might, on the surface, not be indicative of any positive result at the competition, one need not look far for inspiration. Prakash’s fellow competitor at the 2016 Olympics, Joseph Schooling was one such obscure player who literally rose from nothing to defeat swimmers of the likes of Michael Phelps, Lazlo Cseh and Chad Le Clos. The 22-year old from Singapore achieved this in only his second appearance at the Games. His gold in 100m Butterfly is Singapore’s first ever Olympic medal in swimming and their third medal in any discipline in the history of the Games.

Success stories are not hard to come by. The question is whether any of the swimmers of the Indian contingent would be able to match up to their international counterparts in attaining a medal at the World Championships. Till date, Nikitha S Venugopal, who is also a part of the esteemed six member team, is the only woman to win an international medal for swimming for the country.

Below is the list of the six people who will be representing India in Budapest.

Sayani Ghosh Women’s 200m Medley and 400m Medley
Madhu PS Men’s 100m Backstroke and 50m Backstroke
Sajan Prakash Men’s 200m Butterfly and 100m Butterfly
Damini Gowda Women’s 100m Butterfly and 200m Butterfly
Omkumar Tokalkandiga Hemkumar Open Water Category
Nikitha S Venugopal Open Water Category

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