Srihari Nataraj became the second swimmer to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics by breaching the Olympic Qualification time in the men’s 100m backstrokes on Sunday. He came agonisingly close last week missing the time by 0.05s at the Belgrade trophy.
However this time his Herculean effort paid off, as he swam a time of 53.77s, and became the second swimmer along with his teammate Sajan Prakash to qualify directly for the Tokyo Olympics by A.
Srihari Nataraj Shined Since his Junior Years in Competitive Swimming
Nataraj started swimming at the age of 2, learning from his brother. The now 21-year-old is currently practicing under Coach Nihar Ameen. He had his first race at just 5 and it was the reason he kickstarted his swimming career. His idol is the legendary Michael Phelps and aims to emulate his physical and mental capabilities of stamina and willpower.
The holder of several Junior national championships title, he continued his momentum into his senior years. He showed his exceptional talent at the Senior Nationals in 2017 where he swept all three backstroke events (50m, 100m, and 200m), each of them in record times at the age of just 18. He competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games as well as the 2018 Asian Games and 2019 World Aquatic Meet before the age of 21.
“Being an Olympic level swimmer (or in any sport) is a challenge. I’ve been swimming for almost 18 years and it’s taken me a long time to get to the level I’m at, being an Olympic level swimmer is very challenging mentally, physically, and financially,” said Srihari Nataraj to Olympic Channel.
“My parents, coach, strength coach, physio, nutritionist; it’s been a team effort to get to this level and also the support from SAI, SFI by including me into the TOPS scheme has really helped me a lot,” he mentioned.
The Coronavirus Pandemic disrupted his Mindset, but he worked hard to get back on track
The Covid 19 pandemic disrupted almost all athletes’ routines and practices from all over the world, and needless to say, swimming was a part of it. However, a three-member elite swimming team which included Virdhawal Khade (50m freestyle), Kushagra Rawat (400m freestyle), and Srihari Nataraj underwent a training session in Dubai recently.
“It was very important to get back into the water soon and the Dubai training camp gave us the access to get back into the water after the entire lockdown due to Covid,” Nataraj said.
This allowed the youngster to get back on track, and his recent consistent performances have allowed him to secure a spot at the Olympics. He will be making his debut at the Tokyo Olympics this year.