CHENNAI: “I am just trying to swim as fast as possible.” Those are the words of Srihari Nataraj, one of the fastest Indian backstrokers of all time. The 18-year-old is unlike most Indian athletes in his age group. While most youngsters like to go abroad on exposure trips, Nataraj, who went to the Youth Olympics last year, ‘likes to train at home’. Over the last few months, Nataraj has been training with two different objectives. “Getting to the Olympics with an ‘A’ time (against my name) and do well at the World Aquatics Championships,” he tells this daily.
He is confident of not only doing well at the upcoming Worlds in South Korea (July 12 – July 28 in Gwangju) but also breaching the ‘A’ time required to go to the Olympics. “Preparations for the Worlds have been going well. I have been training at the Bangalore Swim Research Centre. Right now, I am just trying to be as precise as possible.
“I have spoken to my strength and conditioning coach and I am confident that I can qualify for the Olympics with an ‘A’ time,” he says. If he does achieve it at the Worlds, it will be no mean feat — his personal best in the 100m backstroke is 55:86 while the ‘A’ qualifying time is 53:85. To get to a new milestone, he has been working on the middle part of the race. “My coach (Jayaraj) has asked to me focus on the middle segment of my race as I have a good start and end.”
In Korea, he will compete at the 50, 100, and 200m backstroke events. After that, he is eyeing an exposure trip to Australia but nothing has been finalised. Even otherwise, ‘I prefer training at home’.