Beijing - a new watershed for Indian swimmers

August 8th, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 8 (IANS) For Indian swimmers, Beijing Olympics will mark a new beginning. The country, which could field just one swimmer in the previous edition of the Games at Athens, has as many as four swimmers representing it here. Though a medal seems a far cry, teenager Virdhawal Khade’s performance is evoking interest from Indian fans and critics alike as the competition gets underway at the National Aquatics Centre Saturday.

Apart from the talented Khade, the Indian contingent includes two times best National Games athlete Rehan Poncha, as also Sandeep Sejwal and U.S. based Ankur Poseria.

While Virdhawal tries to make a splash in 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle, Sandeep competes in 100m and 200m breast-stroke and Ankur and Rehan takes to the water in 100m and 200m butterfly respectively.

Trained by Nihar Ameen, the 16-year-old Khade is the first Indian to qualify for three events in a single Olympics.

Khade, ranked 86th in the world, is tied in 50m freestyle with Masa Yuki Kishida of Japan for the top spot in Asian ranking.

The boy from Kohlapur bagged golds in the 50m and 100m and 400m freestyle and 50m butterfly the Malaysian Open in May. He has also set a new National record in the 400m freestyle with 4:01.87s.

Khade was the first among the four to book his berth for Beijing when he clocked 1:52.41s (qualifying time 1:52.53s) in the 200m freestyle in the World championship in Melbourne in 2007.

At the Husky International meet in the US in December 2007, it was Poseria’s turn to make the cut as he clocked 53.68s (qualifying time 54.71s) in the 100m butterfly. He also made the cut in the 50m freestyle at the NCAA invitation meet in US in March but chose to stick to the 100m.

Sejwal made the grade in the 100m and 200m breaststroke by clocking 1:03.58s in the 100m breaststroke (qualifying time: 1:03.72s) and 2:18.23s in 200m breast-stroke (qualifying time: 2:18.37s).

Rehan, the last of the lot to make it to Beijing, did it in a dramatic fashion. The 23 -year -old not only finished within the qualifying time in the final of 200m butterfly at Telstra Grand Prix in Sydney last month, he also broke 22-year-old National record of Khazan Singh.

Besides this, the four would swim in the relay events as well.

With a swimming field packed with World champions such as Grant Hackett Kosuke Kitajima and talented Michael Phelps who is tipped to break great Mark Spitz’s record of seven golds, Beijing will more or less be the preparatory ground for London 2012.

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