Swimming: India’s Olympic hopeful trio to train in Dubai

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Three of India’s top swimmers will begin two months of training in Dubai next month, sports officials said on Saturday, ending an agonising wait that drove one of them to the verge of retirement ahead of next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Six Indian swimmers had achieved the lower, or B, Olympic qualification for the Tokyo Games before the COVID-19 pandemic forced them out of the pool in March.

India has since allowed some sports facilities to reopen for training, but pools remain closed, prompting freestyle swimmer Virdhawal Khade to announce in June that he was considering retirement.

That now looks unlikely after the Sports Authority of India (SAI) announced Khade (50-metre freestyle), Srihari Nataraj (100-metre backstroke) and Kushagra Rawat (400-metre freestyle) will train at Dubai’s Aqua Nation Swimming Academy from the first week of September.

“This decision was taken … as swimming pools in India are not yet accessible as a safety measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said in a statement.

Among other B qualifiers, Sajan Prakash (200-metre butterfly) has been training in Thailand, while the 800-metre freestyle duo of Aryan Makhija and Advait Page began practice in the United States earlier this month.

“The Dubai camp is for Olympic B qualifiers who are in India and currently unable to train,” Swimming Federation of India secretary-general Monal Chokshi told Reuters.

“It will be a 60-day camp in Dubai, but if pools in India don’t open in 60 days, SAI might extend it.”

Chokshi acknowledged swimmers close to securing the B qualification would be disappointed after being left out of the Dubai camp.

“It is certainly a disappointment … but one can understand that sending a large group abroad is not feasible right now,” Chokshi said. “Hopefully by September, some activities will restart in India, and they can train here.”

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Arushi Sana is the Founder of Santerra Living and Co-Founder of NYK Daily. She was awarded the Times Power Women of the Year 2022 and Times Digital Entrepreneur of the Year 2023. Arushi is also a Sustainability Consultant for organisations looking to reduce their carbon footprint and also works with brands on social media to help them carve a presence in that niche. She holds a Degree in Computer Science Engineering from VIT University and a Diploma in Marketing Analytics from IIM Nagpur. Her interest in Sustainable Living and Interior Design led her to start a Sustainable e-Marketplace where customers can buy eco-furniture and eco-friendly products for everyday use. Arushi is a writer, political researcher, a social worker, a farmer and a singer with an interest in languages. Travel and nature are the biggest spiritual getaways for her, and she aims to develop a global community of knowledge and journalism par excellence through this News Platform.

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