First Indian to earn ‘A’ standard Olympic quota

Sajan Prakash created history by becoming the first Indian ever to clear the ‘A’ standard of international swimming, clocking 1:56.38 minutes in the 200m butterfly. Eventually, heads to the Tokyo Olympics as the first Indian to make it to successive Games.

It wasn’t the fastest of races, which meant Sajan had to push himself to set the pace, with Israeli Marc Hinawi as a marker. The Indian was right behind Czech swimmer Lunak Sebastien in Lane 4 at the first turn, which he completed in 25.99s. Sajan would take the lead at 100m, clocking 29.57s on the return, and finish with identical, consistent splits of 30.41s in the second half.

27-year-old, Sajan Prakash from Kerala won gold which is his second in two weeks. After coming agonisingly close to slashing ‘A’ at Belgrade, Serbia, last week. Coach Pradeep Kumar said, “He was spending 19 seconds and 52 metres underwater over four laps, and we focussed on speeding his pace and gaining 80 centimetres in all to breach the ‘A’ Cut.”

Born in Idukki in the shadow of the tallest peak in the Western Ghats – the Anamudi mountains – Sajan swam under coach Saju Sebastien at Neyveli (Tamil Nadu) before heading off to his friend Pradeep Kumar. He would also work in a training stint in Thailand on a FINA scholarship, and was seen as the most consistent performer since his Rio Games outing. The pandemic saw him head to Dubai where he worked in an indoor pool, silently chipping away the seconds.

Former Asiad medallist Virdhawal Khade explained Butterfly is considered the hardest strokes. While Khade reckons said the Butterfly relies on strong shoulders, it is all in the kick that Sajan scores. He further contunied “Even now, he’s not the most dominant guys. But he works hardest and helps young swimmers and is generous with his help. It’s his time now to become the alpha of Indian swimming and lead the others. If youngsters ever needed someone to look up to, there’s none better than this nice guy. Sajan’s put a smile on everyone’s face in Indian swimming,”.

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