Indian swimming has long been in a slumber. It’s not a force to reckon with even at the Asian and Commonwealth Games, let alone the Olympics.
In the presence of powerhouses like China and Japan, India has just one silver and two bronze medals to show at the continental level, in 17 editions since the first in 1951. At the Commonwealth Games, it has zero medals, as Australia, England, Canada and South Africa have dominated.
At the Olympics, no Indian swimmer has even reached the semifinals. Until Tokyo, India didn’t have a single swimmer who had secured a berth by going under the A-mark Qualification Time.
Though India has had continuous participation from 1996 through the likes of Sebastian Xavier and Sangeeta Puri (Atlanta 1996), Nisha Millet (Sydney 2000), Shikha Tandon (Athens 2004), Sandeep Sejwal and Virdhawal Khade (2008 Beijing), it was either through the B-mark qualification route or the universality quota offered to countries from where no swimmer has made the cut.
Khade caused a sensation as a 16-year-old in 2008, becoming the youngest Indian swimmer to enter the Olympics.
In recent times, Srihari Nataraj has displayed a similar youthful verve and will hope to break India’s duck, alongside Sajan Prakash in Tokyo.
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