Commonwealth Games: No medal, but Srihari garners immense credit

‘It’s important to focus on both positives and negatives and not just on what went wrong’

‘It’s important to focus on both positives and negatives and not just on what went wrong’

Srihari Nataraj may not have secured a podium finish at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, but he no doubt emerged with immense credit.

Amidst a glut of medals for the Indians across sports, the swimmer’s performances may have caught the eye only fleetingly, but they represented significant improvements for Indian swimming.

Narrow miss

The 21-year-old’s fifth-place finish in the men’s 50m backstroke was the best position by an able-bodied Indian swimmer at the CWG. In 100m backstroke, he clocked 54.31s to finish seventh, with the bronze a quarter second away. In 200m backstroke heats, he came home in 2:00.84s, the best-ever by an Indian, to finish just outside the top-eight and narrowly miss out on the final.

“Overall, it was a good performance,” Srihari said, from Birmingham. “Unfortunate that I missed out on a medal… considering my best time (53.77, 100m backstroke) would have won gold. On that day all I had was 54.3(1). We came into the meet with the clear goal of winning a medal. It is nice to know that I am the best Indian. But it wasn’t what we had in mind.

“[But] there are some positives. I have been having really good starts. As the meet progressed, I started looking better and in 200m, I looked the best. It’s important to focus on both positives and negatives and not just on what went wrong.”

Swimming is one of those few sports that is fiercely competitive even at the continental level. At CWG, there are the Australians, South Africans and the Brits. At the Asian Games, there are the Chinese and the Japanese. There is simply no respite.

“I wouldn’t say it is pressure. I enjoy it and [am] kind of glad that every tournament is tough to medal at. It also gives us an idea how many guys you have to do better than. Like if I get to beat all ten here, then at the Worlds it is a couple of more guys from the USA. I look at it that way.”

For now, Srihari is looking at a period of rest, following the postponement of Asian Games to 2023. “I have had a long season since the Olympics. I can now let my body recover. If Asian Games had been this year, it would have been two meets for me to peak at. So, in a way, it’s good. Next season there is going to be the Asian Games and the World Championships. I will be building towards those.”


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