Three Indian Olympic probable swimmers Virdhawal Khade, Srihari Nataraj and Kushagra Rawat will resume their training early next month in Dubai after a long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sports Authority of India said on Saturday.
The Indian trio, who will train at Dubai’s Aqua Nation Swimming Academy, will be accompanied by a coach for a two-month stint at a cost of around Rs 35 lakhs ahead of Tokyo Olympics, which was postponed to next year due to the pandemic.
“Sports Authority of India has approved two months training for three Olympic probable swimmers who will be accompanied with a coach at a cost of around 35 lakhs ahead of next year’s Tokyo Olympics,” SAI said in a release.
Khade (50m freestyle), Nataraj (100m backstroke) and Rawat (400m freestyle) have breached the ‘B’ qualification mark for the Olympics.
“The training in Dubai will allow athletes to practise and improve their timing to Olympic Qualification mark-A Time,” the SAI said.
The Indian swimmers have not entered the pools since March 25 when the first coronavirus-forced lockdown was announced. Though there has been some easing of restrictions, the use of pools still continued to be prohibited in the country till August 31.
The SAI said the decision to allow the swimmers to train in Dubai was taken “in lieu of the current prevailing situation as swimming pools in India are not yet accessible as a safety measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The 19-year-old Nataraj, who achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark last year in the 100m backstroke event with a national record 54.69sec, needs to bring his timing down to 53.85 seconds to be sure of a Tokyo Olympics spot.
Rawat had achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark in the three events of 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle.
Three other swimmers — Sajan Prakash, Aryan Makhija and Advait Page — have also achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark in their respective events for the Olympics and are aiming for the ‘A’ standard.
Prakash and Makhija have resumed training in Phuket, Thailand and Alabama, USA respectively.